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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Texas Refs Blow Whistle on Rival Group

AUSTIN (CN) - A group that supplies referees for high school sports in Texas claims a former partner is trying to monopolize the business: to "take over, tax, oversee and regulate the occupation of sports officiating in the state of Texas."

The Texas Association of Sports Officials sued the University Interscholastic League in Travis County Court.

TASO says it worked amicably with the UIL for decades. But the complaint alleges that the UIL is trying to expand its role from writing the rules by which games are played, to becoming a taxing (dues collecting) monopolistic body.

TASO describes itself as a 12,000-member, independent, nonprofit organization with "a long and distinguished history of advancing the ideas of good sportsmanship and fair play through qualified officiating and encouragement of respect for the authority of officials." For decades, public school hired TASD to officiate their games, the group says.

TASO adds that UIL rules have "long provided that UIL member school districts should use TASO-registered officials in their varsity contests" and that "it is recommended that schools use TASO registered officials in all non-varsity games." But TASO members "are not paid by the UIL, not retained by the UIL and are not in any capacity agents or employees of the UIL," according to the complaint.

Texas school districts "individually contract with TASO member sports officials to work at specific games" and "TASO member sports officials are directly paid by the school districts that retain them on a game-by-game basis," the complaint states. TASO member officials "have in all respects operated as independent professionals under the umbrella of their own association, voting on their own dues, regulations and procedures."

But now, TASO says, the UIL is trying to "improperly and illegally usurp and wholly take over the function of TASO, to tax and regulate its independent sports officials members, and to act wholly outside the authority vested in the UIL by the Legislature or any other body."

The UIL operates under to its own "Constitution and Contest Rules." Its members include every public school in Texas; UIL rules govern every football, basketball, baseball, soccer and volleyball game played in public schools.

TASO says that while the UIL claims on its Web site to be a nonprofit organization, "the Texas Secretary of State has no record of the UIL having filed any organizational documents as a nonprofit corporation."

The UIL "appears to operate simply as an association made up of its member school districts, possessing characteristics similar to other private associations, such as voluntary membership, an apparent lack of legislative funding and failure of any specific statutory enabling act to create the UIL," according to the complaint.

TASO claims that even though the UIL does not have authority over anyone but its own members, it has adopted changes to its Constitution and Contest Rules "by which it seeks to mandate that all sports officials in the State of Texas register and pay dues to the UIL to engage in their profession" and that the "UIL is using its coercive, monopolistic power to compel the officials to subject themselves to UIL control, even though the officials will have no voting rights or say in UIL policymaking."

TASO alleges tortuous interference with contract, illegal occupation tax and illegal attempt to exercise an unauthorized delegation of power. It seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction. It is represented by Gary Schumann.

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