It has been a busy off-season administratively within NISOA and the organizations who are our key partners and customers. There have been numerous communications from the NCAA, NAIA and ArbiterSports regarding changes in procedures with regard to registration and post season assignments. NISOA entered into a long term agreement with Arbiter a number of years ago which registered all our members with the NCAA for post season consideration and access to the NCAA Center Circle for a low flat fee per member. The NCAA was beginning to require all sports have similar post season qualification criteria and access to the NCAA material. Getting in “on the ground floor” with Arbiter allowed for a very favorable agreement which expired this year. Our cost per member was significantly lower than the published fees charged to officials in other sports without a national organization like NISOA. We funded this agreement by evaluating all of our expenditures and reducing costs wherever we could as well as utilizing a small surplus we accumulated over NISOA’s first 45+ years.
Negotiating a new long term agreement with ArbiterSports to register our entire membership with the NCAA has proven to be very challenging and has occupied a significant amount of time and effort from the NISOA officers. Unfortunately, we have not been able to come to a satisfactory agreement. Some additional facts:
- ArbiterSports is majority owned by the NCAA, but not fully owned by them. The NCAA operates ArbiterSports as an independent business so our activities for and relationships with both the Rules Committee and the Championship Committee are independent of this discussion.
- Whereas we have provided the opportunity for all of our members to register on the NCAA site and take the post season qualification exam, only 40% of our membership register and only 15% get post season assignments, half of which received only 1 assignment in any given post season.
- As part of our ongoing relationships with the NCAA championship committee (which selects referees for NCAA post season matches) we had previously agreed that our National Referee recertification test and the NCAA post-season rules test would be one and the same and count toward both requirements (although both groups – the NCAA and the NRP – have additional requirements such as the physical performance test and on field assessment for the NRP and Division / gender specific game counts for the NCAA championships)
We continue to have discussions with ArbiterSports and the NCAA, however, with the beginning of the season looming, we needed to establish mechanisms for the 2015 season without an ArbiterSports NCAA registration agreement. To that end, the NISOA leadership has decided that we will register all of our National Referees, who pass all of the NRP requirements, on the NCAA site as the “one common test” agreement is still in place. National Referees will take the exam (by August 16) on the NISOA site and we will transfer the results to the NCAA site upon completion of all NRP recertification requirements. This provides appropriate additional benefits to NISOA’s National Referees who pay an additional fee and undergo additional testing to complete the National Referee Program. Additionally, it ensures the NCAA Championships will have all of NISOA’s National Referees available for post season assignment. Any other NISOA member who chooses to pay the NCAA fee may take the post-season certification exam on either the NCAA site or the NISOA site (but only 2 attempts in total which will be monitored by the time stamp on the exams).
To be clear – this is an NCAA fee, not one imposed by NISOA. NISOA was able to cover this fee for all members under our previous agreement, but cannot under the current ArbiterSports proposal. Whereas the ArbiterSports agreement was a significant piece of our budget– 25% – 30%, that cost included online testing, data and roster management services NISOA will need to obtain either through ArbiterSports or with another provider so some part of the agreement allocation will be needed for these necessary services. We allocate the majority of our funds for insurance and training and development activities – developing tests (entry, refresher, NRP), guides and training materials used by all of our chapters; conducting regional and national training programs and executing the Elizabethtown training program for new collegiate referees. We are reevaluating both the dues requirements and the spending priorities to ensure NISOA’s members are getting the best value from what they pay. We are the ONLY organization dedicated to the unique aspects of the collegiate soccer game, both the Rules differences and the collegiate approach to the game and focus our efforts on ensuring our members are fully versed in those differences.
The NAIA has observed the NCAA model and has chosen to implement a slightly different program. The NAIA believes that referees who officiate their contests also need to be registered with the NAIA. However, unlike the NCAA, they are requiring registration for all officials for both regular season and post-season matches. The NCAA only requires registration for those officials seeking to officiate post season matches. As with the NCAA, this is an NAIA imposed fee, not NISOA’s. The NAIA has agreed to waive the fee for any official who does two games or less and for all of NISOA’s National Referees. We continue to dialogue with the NAIA about the implications and consequences of their approach, however, the NAIA believes it needs to implement this system.
Every NISOA member is an independent contractor and as such has to make a decision about which of these fees make economic sense given your access to games (both based on your geographical constraints and abilities) and your availability. NISOA will continue to represent our full membership in discussions with the NCAA and NAIA looking to simplify the process and minimize the fees officials are being asked to pay.