DALLAS — As a new football season begins, there will be one team playing a little bit short-handed. They’re also the one team you cannot play the game without.
The Dallas Football Officials Association says it is down about 100 officials, a 20 percent decline, and the shortage is reflective of what’s happening around the state.
“It has been slow over that last couple of years and then this year we got hit pretty hard,” said Ryan McLemore, a back judge with the DFOA.
While the shortage probably won’t affect the standard five-man officiating crews for varsity games on Friday night, it could stretch officials thin for sub-varsity games during the week.
Most districts have junior varsity programs along with multiple 7th and 8th grade teams playing games nearly every day of the week.
McLemore believes the shortage can be attributed to a couple of factors, including the evolution of high-flying offenses in the state of Texas.
“It is spread out, it is run and gun, you are running non-stop,” he said. “Our guys are getting older and the game is getting faster.”
Last year’s targeted hit on a referee by two John Jay High School players made national headlines, and didn’t help recruiting and retention efforts for high school officials, according to McLemore. But he says safety concerns and perceptions about how officials are treated are often over-exaggerated.
“As far as the verbal bashing people think goes on, it is typically not that bad.”
DFOA is stepping up recruiting efforts to help fill the void, which includes increasing efforts on social media and on its website. Becoming a football official requires attendance at a regional clinic and continuing education to learn the rules and mechanics of officiating.
Testing is also involved to show an understanding and knowledge of the rules.
According to the DFOA website, officials are paid between $45 and $55 for every sub-varsity game and $65 to $180 for every varsity game.