The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Administration (WIAA), the organization in charge of regulating Wisconsin’s statewide high school sports, had never required background checks of its licensed officials until this year. According to a report from a local Fox affiliate, the WIAA has thought about requiring background checks for its statewide volunteers and employees—which include coaches, umpires, referees, judges, and other athletic officials—for years now. However, it took until 2013 for the WIAA to follow through on its aim to require a greater level of screening for high school sporting officials, leading to a retroactive series of background checks for more than 9,000 licensed WIAA officials.
Out of those 9,000 background checks, only two of them led to a loss of licensing privileges. However, while the WIAA found only a small number of serious issues through its background checks, one of them was troubling enough to cause concern for Wisconsin state families and schools with students involved in athletics.
That person served as a “coach, umpire, and licensed official” with the WIAA didn’t just have a Wisconsin state criminal record, but was also on the state’s sex offender list and therefore prohibited by law from working with children or teenagers. The discovery of his troubled past led to both his ejection from the WIAA and his arrest for working too closely to children. Although no reports exist to suggest that this coach made advances on any student during his time as a state sporting official, the scenario has certainly served as a sort of “too close for comfort” situation that will easily justify the WIAA’s decision to require background checks of all licensed officials going forward.
Until now, the WIAA has more or less felt comfortable not requiring officials to undergo background checks. Organization commissioners and athletic directors from many parts of the state traditionally hire officials out of the Green Bay Officials Association, a reputed organization with a history for hiring professional people with clean records. In an interview with the aforementioned Wisconsin Fox affiliate, Tom Senecal of the Green Bay Officials Association described the organization’s predominant membership as “judges, high profile attorneys, a ton of professional people.”
Still, while the Green Bay Officials Association and the WIAA may target only professionals with clean records, Schreiber’s sex offender history proves that, every once in awhile, someone slips through the cracks of the system. A background check policy will help to further alleviate the possibility that criminals or offenders will be able to be licensed with the WIAA. After all, screening processes like the state and nationwide criminal checks or offender registry searches offered by backgroundchecks.com could reliably put another wall of security between criminals and Wisconsin high school athletics.