BANGOR, Maine — Longtime high school basketball coach, referee and administrator Bob Cimbollek held a press conference to “blow the whistle” on the local governing body for high school referees.
“The title of this is whistle blowing on the whistle blowers,” the former Bangor, Orono and John Bapst boys basketball coach started out by saying at the Bangor Recreation Department Tuesday afternoon. “I’m here to right a wrong.”
The 72-year-old Cimbollek, who has been an active, dues-paying basketball official for the last 42 years, says he plans to file an age discrimination charge against International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Board No. 111, which oversees referees working games for 33 schools in five counties (Penobscot, Hancock, Waldo, Piscataquis, and Knox), with the Maine Human Rights Commission in Augusta this week.
“The first I heard about the suit was at least three or four years ago and to my knowledge, nothing’s been done, but that’s up to him,” said Charlie Pray, IAABO Board 111 president.
Cimbollek — who officiated three varsity games this past season in addition to numerous college, JV, freshman and middle school games — said there is no accountability when it comes to the evaluation, assignment, and cost of high school officials by IAABO Board No. 111.
“The ratings system is still in place today, but it does not function very well,” he said. “The current rating system they have is cloudy, foggy and unaccountable when it should be clear, transparent and accountable.”
Pray says the system is very transparent.
“Our ratings officer is readily available to all our members,” said Pray. “And our ratings system uses a scale with a maximum score roughly just over 100 points based on a number of things: comprehension of the rules [through written exams], attendance at meetings and clinics, career longevity, availability, fellow official rat-ings.”
Cimbollek says Board 111 has gone from a system in which each school submitted lists of 15 to 20 officials, in order of preference, for the 1980-81 season to — three decades later — the current system in which 100 percent of the ratings system for referees is done by fellow officials, not coaches, and no negative votes were allowed by coaches.
“I don’t know who is to benefit from what he’s trying to dredge up here,” said Pray. “It’s not the kids or the betterment of basketball in Eastern Maine, which from my vantage point is already in great shape. As near as I can tell, it’s for the betterment of Bob Cimbollek.”
Cimbollek admits he didn’t meet personally with board members, but did meet with the board’s executive committee last Sunday about returning to the days when coaches from each school submitted a list of 25 referees, in order of preference, they’d prefer to officiate their games.
“When I met with the Board 111 executive committee on Sunday two weeks ago to try and not have to do this, they said they didn’t think they could do it with 25, and we don’t think all the schools want it,” Cimbollek said. “What you’ve got are two silent sides: the officials who don’t say anything and the schools that don’t want to do anything.
“Who in the middle gets trapped? The coaches and the kids.”
Pray counters that a list of 25 simply isn’t enough with so many more schools and teams involved in the mix now.
“He’s impressed on us that the coaches need to have this select 25 list, but back in 1976, girls games were played in the afternoon and officiating was handled by custodians and school officials, so things have really changed,” Pray explained. “This list really needs to be closer to the 40-ish range because any given night, roughly 10 percent of our officials are off because some of them like to be off or working college games, or even poker nights or their wife’s birthday.”
Longtime boys varsity basketball coach and former high school math and science teacher Willie Gavett, who is in his second season and 20th overall since returning to Orono after a nearly 20-year absence, said coaches should have a say in referee assignments.
“Whether you have a list or not, the majority of people you’d have working in your gym would be people you’d be happy with, but there’d be one or two for whatever reason you don’t want,” Gavett explained. “With a list, you wouldn’t have to have them, which I think is more than reasonable.”
Cimbollek also pointed out that the assigners fee has gone from $6 a game to $8 per game.
“I believe you could get a coffee for 25 or 30 cents back in 1976, too,” Pray said. “I don’t know of anybody who does anything in 2010 who does it at the same rate they did back in 1976, when the assignment [by a central assigner instead of individual schools assigning referees themselves] started.
“So I don’t know how valid his point is in regard to it being disruptive to school budgets. That’s just a bunch of bunk.”
Cimbollek says it’s not the rate hikes so much as it is Board 111’s ability to raise them without any input from school officials.
“You just don’t arbitrarily do it and stick it right down our throats,” said Cimbollek.
Randy Harris, president of the Penobscot Valley Conference, agrees that coaches want more say in the assignment of officials.
“We’d certainly like to have more say in who we have refereeing our games, for instance in terms of where they’re coming from or a connection to schools,” said Harris, a coach for 26 years and athletic director at Lee Academy for 10. “We’d like to have more input with what goes on with the officials and we’ve met twice this year already with [Board 111] and are continuing to work together to make things better in Eastern Maine basketball.”