The Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) has adopted a new spectator conduct policy that is aimed to protect the stripe-shirted officials that roam the fields and courts in the Bluegrass State.
After the Board of Control meeting in the month of May they published the following press release on their website.
"In an effort to further promote sportsmanship and support contest officials and administrators, the board approved a recommendation from the commissioner to adopt a spectator conduct provision into its policies and procedures.
The approved policy states that "any adult spectator (adult who is not listed on the current roster of coaches for the school) at any KHSAA sanctioned interscholastic event (scrimmage, regular or postseason contest) who is removed by school administrators or by law enforcement (whether or not referred by a contest official) for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be suspended from attending, at minimum, the next contest at that level of competition and all other contests at any level in the interim."
"It is my sincere hope, and I believe that of our board, that this penalty never be implemented and this be yet another tool in the toolbox of our school administrators to address some of the concerns we see throughout the year," said KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett. "Hopefully this is a deterrent that, when implemented in our schools, becomes that one last chance for people to stop short of acting in such an unsportsmanlike manner that ejection is the only option."
In other words, parents or any fan that is not associated with the KHSSA that goes to a high school game in Kentucky and acts a fool and gets ejected will also serve at minimum a one game suspension.
The policy was adopted as response to a report released in early 2019 by the KHSAA that they were losing officials at an alarming rate, mainly due to harassment from parents and fans.
KHSAA records show that the state's pool of officials has been steadily evaporating for six years and has now plunged nearly 15 percent since its 2012-13 peak.
The total of officials across all sports has dropped from 4,299 to 3,678 during that span — the lowest level since 2002 — and their ranks are aging rapidly because of the scarcity of new recruits.
Though baseball and soccer have been the hardest hit among Kentucky high school sports, the state's 1,744 basketball officials are 159 fewer than were available six years ago.
I'll be the first to admit, I was never easy on the officials in my playing days. I was always one of the first to voice my displeasures with an official if I felt they missed a call. But I never crossed the line and and never even received one technical foul.
One thing I always tried to remember, the officials are people too. They are never perfect, even though we expect them to be, and sometimes the human element can come into play. Nearly every umpire and referee you will see in Kentucky or West Virginia also works full-time at another job or is retired from a previous job and officiates games in their spare time.
If you watch games of any sport at the professional level in today's age, they have replay systems in place to correct calls that the officials may have missed.
How is it that the higher-ups in the NFL, MLB, and NBA realize that even their officials will never be perfect but parents and fans at the amateur level expect high school referees to never miss a call.
Human error will always be a part of sports and calls will always be missed. But it is very rare that a missed call directly affects the outcome of a game.
Kudos to the KHSAA for putting this policy in place that will hopefully keep those unruly parents and fans that want to cause a scene in their place and allow the officials to focus on doing their job.
Jarrid McCormick is a sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.