High school football games in Miami-Dade County wound up getting played as scheduled on Thursday night when a last-second agreement between the Greater Miami Athletic Conference and its officials association was reached late Thursday afternoon over a pay dispute.
Up until midafternoon, the Miami Springs football team didn’t even know if it needed to cancel the order for buses. Springs athletic director Craig Jay confirmed that the school was eventually instructed to proceed to Milander Stadium for its scheduled game with Mourning and not cancel the buses.
Friday’s full slate of games also will not be affected.
The featured game of the night was Edison against Central at Traz Powell Stadium, and it was the Rockets who flexed their muscle over the Red Raiders by pulling away for a 44-14 victory.
Reached Wednesday evening, Kevin McLeroy, president of the officials association along with former president Jerry Gomez, confirmed that they were unable to reach an agreement with GMAC officials and that they had instructed all members to not sign up for Thursday’s three games, Coral Reef-South Miami at Harris Field being the third game.
“We’re very happy that we were able to reach an agreement,” McLeroy said late Thursday afternoon. “All parties came together to make sure the most important stakeholders in all of this, our students, were not negatively impacted. Games are kicking off and student athletes are still competing.”
According to McLeroy and Gomez, the sticking point during the negotiations that spanned over the past few months was over travel money.
All field officials make $65 a game and have received $12 in addition for travel totaling $77. The Miami Herald learned that initially the officials association had asked for a $12 increase, then lowered it to $10 and eventually $8 for the travel stipend.
As recently as noon on Thursday, the GMAC offered officials a $4-per-game increase immediately before leaving open the possibility of reconvening for another meeting next week at Coral Park High School to look into a further increase.
That offer was rejected by the officials association. But by midafternoon, McLeroy was contacted and informed that the $8 increase had been approved.
McLeroy, GMAC Commissioner of Officials James Colzie and head assigner Carlos Calveiro then went into scramble mode to contact the originally assigned crews that were scheduled to work the three games and get them to their designated sites.
“It was a little hectic for sure, but we got it done,” McLeroy said.
“There was certainly a little uncertainty during the day, but I was originally scheduled to do this game and I always keep my stuff in the car just in case we get assigned to a different game at the last minute,” said John Brandow, head referee at the Central-Edison game. “So I got the call at about 4:30, so it was just a matter of dealing with Miami traffic.”
This wasn’t just a football matter either. The increase from $12 to $20 for travel is across-the-board for all sports but clearly driven by football.
“It’s really sad that we had to push it to this extreme because this could have been handled months ago,” said Ron Paige, who is the president of the volleyball and softball committees along with being on the football executive board. “No matter what it took, I’m glad it got done because the last thing we really wanted to do was hurt the kids and see all kinds of athletic events not get played.”
The Miami Herald reached out to GMAC Executive Director George Nunez for a statement. He referred all matters to Daisy Gonzalez-Diego from the District’s Office of Communications.
“Following daylong negotiations, the District reached a tentative agreement with the Greater Miami Athletic Conference that ensures all games will be played as previously scheduled,” read the statement.