DEER VALLEY — A schism between two groups of basketball officials could cause problems next season and the issues that were discussed with the Executive Committee of the Utah High School Activities Association Tuesday afternoon.

The UHSAA's executive committee took no action after the discussion, which included presentations from both groups.

"Please do everything you can to solve these issues," said UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner. "We're not going to say you win and you lose. It's a political fight, and we're not going to choose sides. We really do appreciate all our officials do for us. We just hope you can make it easy for us to assign people to games."

It will be a difficult issue to solve as neither side agrees on how officials should be evaluated and ranked.

The Utah Basketball Officials Association attorney Scott Mercer offered a 15-minute presentation on the history of the problems and how the UHSAA could help sort it out. He said that last year a group of officials who were unhappy with the results of the group's elections, so they broke away from the UBOA and formed a new chapter called Wasatch Chapter.

"They were able to use their influence with (UHSAA staff) and be recognized as a new chapter," Mercer said. "UBOA is not the new group ... We're the old group."

Mercer said the UBOA's new officers felt officials should be "subject to continuing evaluation. ... Since 1977 the UBOA has been in charge of evaluating and ranking officials. The new officers believe it's time to change the thinking that varsity officials are lifetime status. They need to be evaluated on an independent basis, by an independent group and ranked accordingly."

But Greg Spencer, who is a member of the Provo Chapter and the president of the Association Board, said the real problem is that the UBOA doesn't want to participate in the Joint Board System, which brings together a chapter from Utah County area, a chapter from the Davis-Weber County area, and the two chapters in the Salt Lake area to all vote on what officials should be ranked at which levels.

"They don't like they've been evaluated in the past," Spencer said. When asked by Dugway boys basketball coach George Bruce if teams "were suffering in any way because the two groups can't come together," Spencer said he'd be speculating on the ability of individuals to set aside their difference and work together.

UHSAA assigner of officials Mike Petty and associate director Rob Cuff said that all four chapters agreed to participate in the Joint Board system in December, but then the UBOA backed out of that in January.

President of the UBOA Patrick Geddes said they did so because they their officials weren't treated fairly by the Joint Board.

Spencer said the Wasatch group split from UBOA because of the size of the organization. They fully intended to cooperate in the Joint Board and want to work with the UBOA if possible.

"We had trouble at the ranking meeting," he said. Spencer also contends that varsity officials are evaluated, just as junior varsity officials are, but he did acknowledge there wasn't always a written evaluation to refer to and the Joint Board relies on verbal reports from those who've worked with or seen officials work games. Petty and Cuff are developing a written evaluation on officials that is completed by coaches, but it's not fully implemented yet.

UHSAA officials chose not to use UBOA officials this year in the playoffs and it meant some officials worked multiple games in a day. Petty said it was because they group pulled out of the Joint Board and that system is also used in drafting officials for a tournament list.

Mike Petty said it would be difficult to recognize and use both groups if they don't unify the way they rank officials. Although, the UHSAA did say they would use past rankings, and essentially freeze them, so that officials from the UBOA could work games next season with their old ratings. That could change if the two groups figure out a way to come together on the issue.

The rift could affect sub-varsity games most dramatically as the UBOA worked 2,082 of the 2,700 sub-varsity games last season.

"And they're just willing to throw that away," said J.R. Trease, executive vice-president of UBOA. "What we don't want and will never allow to happen is that the games get affected."

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