The sentiment I heard was, ‘That’s just one more whistle that has to be blown. They’d prefer to go with two (referees) if they have to be the same. —Doug Finch, American Fork principal

MIDVALE — High school basketball teams may not know how many officials they’ll use until August.

The Utah High School Activities Association’s Executive Committee decided to punt on the issue after regions offered various takes on whether they wanted two or three officials on the court next season.

“The sentiment I heard was, ‘That’s just one more whistle that has to be blown,’ ” said American Fork principal Doug Finch, who spoke on behalf of Region 4. “They’d prefer to go with two (referees) if they have to be the same.”

Utah is one of just two states that uses two officials at the varsity level for girls. For the last several years, 4A and 5A boys teams have used three officials as part of a pilot program. But last month, UHSAA staff told the principals that make up the executive committee that they had to make a decision as regions as to whether or not they wanted to support two or three officials for both boys and girls teams.

UHSAA staff felt it was unfair to continue offering boys three officials during the regular season and not girls, although because UHSAA oversees postseason play, the girls have played with three officials in their tournaments at the 4A and 5A level for the last two seasons.

Regions 1 and 3 said their schools supported three officials for both boys and girls at the 4A and 5A level, while Regions 2 and 4 said they wanted both programs to go back to two-man crews.

Two of the principals were absent from the meeting and the other two were split on the issue as well.

The UHSAA chairman tabled the issue without a vote and asked principals to get together and come up with a final decision by their next meeting in August.

Director of officials for the UHSAA Mike Petty said that there are plenty of officials for both boys and girls at the 4A and 5A levels to use three-man crews. He said it’s what officials prefer to work and it’s what colleges and club tournaments use.

Many officials feel using two-person mechanics is taking a step backward. In fact, the UHSAA will hold an officiating camp next week as part of the University of Utah’s team camp, and Petty said 70 officials have signed up to learn or improve in the system.

He said that he feels the move to three-person crews is inevitable and hopes that officials are ready for the change when it happens. In the past, principals have complained about the cost of paying extra officials for both boys and girls games, but most acknowledge the unfairness in paying for the boys teams to have the extra referee and not the girls.

OUT OF SEASON PARTICIPATION SPLITS COMMITTEE

A number of changes to the constitution and by-laws of the UHSAA were sent on to the Board of Trustees, which will meet on June 13 to finalize those changes. The most high-profile is a change that will make forfeiting games mandatory when teams use an ineligible player for any reason.

One issue that was also tossed to the Board of Trustees without a vote one way or another was changing dead time rules. Right now there are 12 weeks of dead time, which means teams are not supposed to practice but they can meet for conditioning or fundraising. The committee that studied the issue recommended changing it to four weeks of moratorium with no activity at all — including fundraising, meetings or conditioning as overseen by a coach.

The principals were divided as many of the urban schools favored the change, but the smaller schools favored keeping the rules as they are, which were designed to encourage participation in multiple sports.

“Where we are is unacceptable,” said assistant UHSAA director Bart Thompson. “It’s absolutely unenforceable.”

Assistant director Becky Anderson went one step farther, saying the current rules are almost “unexplainable.”

One aspect of the proposed change that seemed to be favored by most of the regions was a week moratorium in the summer that would allow families a vacation.

UHSAA chairman Craig Hammer said they would send the draft to the Board of Trustees and let them know that the executive committee was divided on the issue, mostly along classification lines.

“The majority of members support one week (moratorium) in the summer,” said Hammer. “We’re split on whether to move to four or stay with 12 (weeks of dead time).”

Thompson pointed out that if they voted to change to the four-week proposal, it was a more strict rule where nothing — not even fundraising or team meetings — could be held.

HIGH SCHOOL HOOPS ON THE HILL

The executive committee also voted to take the 4A and 5A boys basketball tournaments back to the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center in 2014, 2016 and 2019. The tournament will be held at Weber State University in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

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Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com