black_referee.jpgOMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ An African-American basketball official is asking the Nebraska School Activities Association to assign more black referees to games at the state high school tournament in Lincoln.

The issue is on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting of the NSAA Board of Directors in Lincoln.

Among the 36 officials who worked last week's girls tournament, none were black. Of the 36 scheduled to work this week's boys tournament, two are black.

Ten-year high school referee Chantell Hickey of Omaha said the selection process is flawed and does not reward the best officials.

Sylvo Johnson, a black referee from Omaha who will be working his third straight boys state tournament, is Hickey's officiating partner. He said he doesn't “agree or disagree'' with Hickey. He said there are deserving officials of every race who are overlooked by the NSAA, but he sees no malice.

“All officials need to step back and look at themselves as officials,'' Johnson said. “They don't look at your color. They're looking at geography and your ability.''

NSAA supervisor of officials Larry Mollring said the organization looks for the best officials and race is not a factor. He said coaches and administrators recommend officials for state tournaments. Mollring said he and assistant director Tom Millsap use those recommendations and input from seven statewide observers to pick officials.

Mollring said an effort is made to have each of the NSAA's six geographical districts represented, though Hickey said the state shouldn't be beholden to that policy if it means leaving out more qualified officials.

For an official to work at state, he or she must have a certification level that takes five years to achieve.

Mollring said there were 274 eligible officials who told the NSAA they would be available to work the state tournaments. He said he didn't know how many of the 274 were black because information about race is not included in NSAA paperwork.

Hickey has been eligible to work state tournaments for five years but has never drawn an assignment. Hickey said he doesn't believe in quotas but that it would be reasonable to believe there were about a dozen black referees who merited state assignments.

The NSAA pays officials $70 a game at state and pays 50 cents a mile round-trip from their hometowns to Lincoln.

Mollring said assignments are made about two weeks before each tournament. He said there would be no changes in assignments for this week's tournament based on Hickey's concerns.