A referee officiates during a football game between Melba High School and Cole Valley Christian School on Sept. 25, 2020

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With just more than three weeks to go before the start of the high school sports season, the District III Officials Association has not agreed to a contract with the District III Board of Controls.

But the head of the Officials Association remains confident a deal will be reached before the first game of the high school soccer season on Aug. 20.

Gary Bassett, the president of the District III Officials Association, told the Idaho Press on Tuesday that the association submitted a counteroffer last week to the Board of Controls, saying that the officials it represents will be ready to go should the district accept the offer.

“We feel like the contract we proposed is a very fair contract,” Bassett said. “It is a three-year contract that will hopefully get us to a point where we don’t have to spend all this time (negotiating). We would love to spend our time doing the training, the evaluating and recruiting and training of officials that we have long done in our association. We would very much like to have the contract done, but we also understand that we’ve got to represent our officials.”

The previous three-year contract expired at the end of the 2019-20 school year and Bassett said his association submitted a renewal proposal in March 2020. But talks stalled as the COVID-19 pandemic set in. Game officials, who operate as independent contractors, agreed to work the 2020-21 school year under the terms of the old contract. Bassett said that even though he had far fewer officials to work with last year, not a single game had to be canceled due to the shortage.

Negotiations for a new contract resumed towards the end of a school year.

Pay schedules for each sport are negotiated under a single contract. Bassett said that the Board of Controls and Officials Association are closer to agreeing to terms in some sports than they are in others, but he declined to say which sports were closer and how far apart the two sides were in the negotiations.

“I think at this point, they’ve got our offer,” Bassett said. “We’ve got the three fall sports coming up, volleyball, soccer and football. And our two largest sports for the schools, and us as officials are football and basketball. Those are the important things in the agreement that covers the largest amount of our officials.”

A phone call placed to District III Board of Controls President Terry Beck on Tuesday morning was not returned.

Bassett said he didn’t know what the plan would be if a contract is not reached before the start of the season. But with the relationship his association has with the district, he is very confident it won’t come to that.

“I think a deal will get done, whether it’s the contract that we proposed, this most recent offer, it’s a little bit hard to say. But we have told them if they accept this offer, we’re ready to go. We did make some concessions in this most recent offer. We’re hopeful that happens, and again if they come back and take that offer, we’re ready to go. If they don’t, we’ll go from there.”

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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