A shortage of football officials for high school games might mean games would have to be moved to either Thursdays or Fridays this fall.
And the shortage is not just in football. Every high school sport in Nevada is affected.
Chris Whitbeck, with the Northern Nevada Football Officials Association, said the group has lost numerous officials since last season.
That could mean officials will have to work games with fewer people per crew. There are usually five, but they might have to go with four and go without a back judge.
It could also mean officials would have to work all three levels, freshmen, junior varsity and varsity games. Normally, officials only work one or two of the levels.
Whitbeck did not know why so many officials have left, or why new ones are not coming out.
Usually, just a few officials leave after each season, but Whitbeck said there was above normal attrition this year due to various circumstances.
“We’re always looking for officials,” Whitbeck said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re rookies or not, we’ll train anybody.”
He said they prefer people with a football background, but it’s not necessary.
The officials shortage is not limited to football. Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association assistant director Jay Beesemyer said officials are needed in all sports. He said 700 officials are needed statewide, across all sports, and the NIAA has 500.
“It’s been kind of on a gentle decline for the past seven years,” Beesemyer said.
He said there is online registration this year, which requires payment up front, which could be hurting efforts. In past years, the NIAA allowed people to have sign-up fees taken from paychecks, or pay later in the year.
There is also a background check, new this year, which he said could be limiting applicants.
“That’s a trend nationwide. In the past, we haven’t had background checks and people asked, ‘Why not?’” Beesymer said. “They’re not in contact with the kids unsupervised, but in this day and age, you’ve got to be sure. We’ve got officials out there going into schools, onto fields and courts. We can’t have convicted felons out there officiating games. I don’t know how many people that (background check) is scaring off.”
Beesemyer said he does not know why people are reluctant to become officials, or why they don’t return.
“Maybe it’s not as rewarding as they thought it would be,” he said. “A lot of people say it’s the way officials are treated that they don’t come back, but I don’t know if that’s true. If you’re going to be an official, that’s part of the deal. In a perfect world, nobody should be arguing with them, but that’s part of the challenge.”
There will be a classroom clinic for football officials from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday in Washoe Valley at 145 Esmeralda. The cost of the clinic is $40 which includes a rule book, mechanics manual, some other instructional materials and online assignment system fee. Attendees will also need to sign an independent contractor’s agreement at the clinic. Call Whitbeck at 775-846-0822 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitbeck said the training is comprehensive and condensed and designed to get people ready quickly.
Officials are paid $35 per game.
Whitbeck said officials are also needed for Pop Warner youth football. The Pop Warner Jamboree is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 29 in Fallon and officials can receive on-field training there.
There will also be a field clinic with two Pop Warner teams in early September at Golden Eagle Regional Park in Sparks.
To be a football official, get more information or sign up at NNFOA.org.
For information on becoming an official in all sports, contact Beesemyer at 775-453-1012.