Older Referees Say NCAA Black-Balled Them From D-1

MANHATTAN (CN) — Rarely if ever assigned Division-I games these days, three referees who have been with the NCAA for more than a decade filed suit in New York for age discrimination.

Represented by the firm Kraus & Zuchlewski, the officials Robert Barker, Dennis Allocco and Michael Pilla brought their complaint Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“All three continue to receive highly favorable evaluations of their referring skills,” the 27-page filing states. “However, despite his continuing exemplary referring performance, the number of game assignments plaintiffs recently have received have declined precipitously.”

Representatives for the NCAA’s legal department did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, which says the referees are facing discrimination on the basis of age.

Barker notes for example that he reffed 196 games between 2010 and 2016, but saw that number drop to 78 games from 2017 to 2019. While none of the games during the 2018-19 season were Division I assignments, he also notes that his assignments to Division II and Division III games have dropped precipitously.

The only explanation Barker has heard from his supervisors is that he and all the older referees must make way for younger referees.

With the drop-off in work, the referees have also seen smaller paychecks. Barker says his officiating fees declined from almost $31,000 to approximately $13,000. In the last two years, it’s dropped below $7,000.

The same happened to Allocco, who refereed 52 Division I games in the 2015-16 season but none in the 2019-20 season. Allocco’s net income dropped from $54,000 in 2015 to $26,000 in 2018.

Pilla also allegedly saw his number of assignments and net income drop after the 2016 age-based policy for officials was put in place. Pilla’s net income dropped from $14,000 in 2014-15 to $5,000 in 2017-18.

The discrimination is also coming at a time the NCAA has been discussing making a small group of referees employees.

“The NCAA have made it clear that they favor young referees and that older experienced referees like Barker will no longer receive the most lucrative assignments to Division I basketball games,” Schwab wrote in the complaint.

Named as defendants to the suit are the NCAA and six conferences: the Atlantic 10, the Northeast Conference, Patriot League, Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, and Northeast 10 Conference.

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