Varsity Extra

Does Idaho need another referee for high school basketball? It’s about to get one

All-woman officials crew makes Idaho history at 5A state basketball final

Tobi Cook and Andrea Holland-Colbert, with a combined 37 years of experience as referees, became the first all-woman officiating crew to call a state basketball championship game in Idaho Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017.
Up Next
Tobi Cook and Andrea Holland-Colbert, with a combined 37 years of experience as referees, became the first all-woman officiating crew to call a state basketball championship game in Idaho Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017.

An extra set of eyes is coming to Idaho high school basketball next season.

The Idaho high school sports governing body finalized a plan Wednesday to add a third referee to its 2019 state tournaments and state play-in games in every classification. And administrators around the state widely expect leagues to add a third official to regular season and district tournament games to match the state tournament.

“It has been a discussion for several years. Really, it’s probably time,” said Ty Jones, the executive director of the Idaho High School Activities Association. “And the biggest push and the biggest reason that it’s time is because the game has gotten faster and there’s a definite safety factor in it.”

Idaho has used two-person referee crews at all of its state tournaments.

The IHSAA vote doesn’t extend to the regular season or district tournaments. Leagues and schools would need to request three-person crews next season, a request district commissioners are preparing for.

Currently, Idaho leagues are a mishmash of two- and three-person referee crews. No league in the Treasure Valley uses three-person crews, but District Three Commissioner David Lee said his officials experiment with it during holiday tournaments.

Meanwhile, the Coeur d’Alene-based District One has used three-person crews for its 5A and 4A games since 2006, and it covers 3A, 2A and 1A games when asked. The Twin Falls-based District Four added three-person crews for its 4A and 1A Division I leagues this year. And a handful of schools in the Idaho Falls-based District Six use three officials for their home games.

“I fully expect it to trickle down, and everyone will want it,” District Four Basketball Commissioner Sean Standley said.

Referee Tobi Cook tosses the jump ball at the start of a 5A girls basketball state semifinal in 2015 at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. Darin Oswald

Proponents of adding an extra official to the court say it will lead to a cleaner game with referees in better position to make calls, especially for fouls off the ball and in transition.

“The kids are just getting faster, they’re stronger and the offenses are more complex,” Lee said. “We can’t see everything with two people.”

Standley said that with less ground to cover on a three-person crew, officiating is less taxing and would allow those nearing retirement to stay on the court.

“I’ve heard many guys who said they’d come back who couldn’t physically keep up with the two-person game,” Standley said. “We’ve had three or four guys come back this year.”

We’re not calling more fouls. We’re more accurate. I think that’s what coaches, fans and players want.

John Posnick, District One Basketball Commissioner

Mountain View boys basketball coach Jon Nettleton took his team to Utah for two games in December. Both games used three-person crews, and Nettleton noticed the difference.

“I think there are a lot of things where coaches are saying, ‘Hey, this is happening,’ ” Nettleton said. “With that third official, you’re going to see it. I didn’t talk to the officials much in those two games because, boom, it was called. Or it wasn’t an issue and it wasn’t called.”

But not everyone is on board with a third official, calling it unnecessary and citing the extra expense for cash-strapped schools.

District One and District Four officials give schools a discount, charging them for two-and-a-half referees when using a three-person crew. Standley said that amounts to an extra $52 a night for teams in Twin Falls, adding up to $1,040 a season for a school hosting 10 boys and 10 girls games.

Middleton girls basketball coach Andy Jones remains skeptical that a third referee would improve the sport and said that money would be better spent on travel costs or a shot clock.

“Maybe it’s my imagination, but it looks like sometimes those games are over-officiated,” Jones said. “And then some are under-officiated because they’re waiting for someone else to make the call.”

Scheduling also remains an obstacle, with districts throughout the state short on officials. Lee said adding a third referee to varsity games would require schools in the Treasure Valley to get creative with their schedules. That could include hosting boys and girls doubleheaders or moving games away from the traditional Tuesday, Friday and Saturday schedules.

“We definitely need more officials,” Lee said. “If we had done it this year, we would have been hurting. We might not have been able to cover all games with three officials.”


The IHSAA finalized plans to tweak the 5A and 4A football playoffs in 2018 and moved forward with proposals to seed the 3A and 2A playoffs with a computer ranking.

The 5A playoffs remain at 12 teams but will increase the number of at-large berths from one to three next season. At-large berths are determined by the best winning percentage against Idaho 5A schools or out-of-state schools with an enrollment large enough to compete in Idaho’s 5A classification (1,280 students or more).

The 4A playoffs will expand from 12 to 16 teams next fall with the increase of 4A teams at the start of the next classification cycle.

The IHSAA board discussed plans to seed the 3A and 2A playoffs with the RPI formula Colorado uses to draw its playoff brackets. The board unanimously passed the proposals as a first reading with the requirement that it needs concrete details before it can finalize an overhaul of the playoffs at its April 11 meeting.

RPI calculates a single score for each team weighing its winning percentage, its opponents’ winning percentage and the winning percentage of its opponents’ opponents. It does not include margin of victory.


With Idaho becoming the 49th of 51 state associations to sanction swimming as a high school sport, the previous state swimming organization has dissolved and donated $15,000 to the IHSAA.

Julie Prince, the executive director of the Association of Idaho High School Swimming, presented the check to the IHSAA on Wednesday to support future state meets. The IHSAA will run its first state meet in the fall of 2018, and Jones said the check could cover two to three years of rental facilities for the state meet.


Skyview outside hitter Dani Nay was named the Gatorade Idaho Volleyball Player of the Year for the second year in a row Tuesday.

The Weber State commit led the Hawks to a 40-3 record and a successful 4A state title defense. She racked up 488 kills, 289 digs, 52 aces and 49 blocks while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

“Nay is incredibly fluid in the way she plays the game,” Eagle coach Collin Hartman said in a release. “She sees the court extremely well and she has a wide range of shots in her arsenal. She’s very competitive and fiery, and she’s the type of athlete who wants the ball on match point.”

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama