UNDATED (WLOX) - The high school basketball season is set to tip off November 5, but the lingering question is this: Who will be officiating those contests?
As of right now, most members of the Gulf Coast Officials Association who were on the court for coast basketball games in the past will not be there.
The GCOA took a final vote Wednesday and agreed to a work stoppage before notifying the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
While the MHSAA's current backup plan hasn't been finalized, it's possible that games played on the gulf coast will include officials from other counties in the state, or even out-of-state referees.
Referees are usually assigned to officiate two games per night at a current rate of $40 per game ($80 total). The GCOA originally asked for a $15 per game raise, but the MHSAA would only approve a pay boost of $5 per game.
"We'd even be happy if they met us halfway," GCOA President Joe Davis told WLOX last week. "We currently have a counter offer on the table that would be an additional $5 this year and $5 the next three years."
That counter offer was denied. While some administrators believe it's a decent proposal, the timing of the request is what has caused the current disagreement.
Athletic department budgets of high schools on the gulf coast were set back in April, and an alteration in where money is spent now could cause a domino effect among other departments.
"You have to keep in mind that budgets for this school year were established last spring," Gulfport Athletics Director Bryan Caldwell said. "Any change during the school year presents a problem, especially for smaller high schools.
"It's important to remember that not every high school in Mississippi is a 6A high school with a large budget. There have been plenty of departments that have had to make cuts this year. Any additional costs can be a burden."
In an effort to beat the strike, the MHSAA created a new officials association of which current GCOA members can still participate.
An officials pay raise is reasonable, but Caldwell stressed that these conversations would be much more productive had they happened well before now.
"At this particular time of the year, it's not something that's easily addressed," Caldwell said. "To threaten a strike bothers me. At the end of the day, this is an adult problem and the ones that would pay are the students, athletes. I just don't think that's fair."