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May 10, 2001
Officiating assignments handled online

The Eastern College Athletic Conference is the nation's largest athletic conference with 312 member schools in Divisions I, II and III, ranging in location from Maine to North Carolina. In the 2000-2001 academic year, the ECAC will host 103 championships and 34 men's and women's sports as the sponsors of over 2,000 varsity teams and 125,000 male and female athletes.

The officiating bureau of the ECAC assigns officials in 12 sports including baseball, basketball, fencing, football, gymnastics, ice hockey, soccer, and wrestling. The bureau assigns officials for both conference and NCAA championships, handing out over 20,000 assignments to more than 4,000 officials each year.

Historically the ECAC managed these assignments with a paper-intensive process. Schools would mail to the ECAC a schedule of games for which they needed ECAC staff to assign officials. At the same time, officials would mail to ECAC a schedule of their availability for a season of a particular sport. ECAC would then mail officials and schools the assignments for the season.

Once assignments were sent, last minute changes or unforeseen conflicts-of-interest would require the ECAC to mail updated schedules to affected schools and officials. These changes were slow and unreliable, as an official might not realize a modified schedule was sent to them, or receive the update too late before a game.

ECAC also mailed officiating evaluation forms to schools and officials. The response rate for these evaluations was only around 12%, far lower than what seemed possible.

In the summer of 2000, the ECAC began development of a web-based officials scheduling system with the help of Lokitech. The goals of the web-based system were to substantially reduce postage costs, to centrally manage schedules with more real-time interaction with schools and officials, and to increase the feedback rate on officiating evaluations.

The adoption of the web-based officiating scheduling system was better than anticipated. In the first year, 85% of the officials received assignments from the web-based system. While this did not eliminate the need for mailing paper copies, it did reduce postage costs by more than $40,000 in the first year.

With schools and officials now visiting a single website for officials assignments, the ECAC was better able to communicate rules changes, weather information, and other policy changes to their members.

The response rates for the officiating evaluations also increased dramatically. Coaches and officials found it significantly easier to complete evaluation forms online instead of mailing a paper-based form. Response rates the first year were 30% for basketball and 40% for hockey.

The ECAC is now planning improvements for the officials scheduling system including expanded ratings, an automated assignment system, and support for other sports and leagues.

Futher Reading

NCAA home page story for the week of February 12, 2001 - http://www.ncaa.org/news/2001/20010212/active/3804n04.html

About the ECAC - http://www.ecac.org

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