There are ways to improve referee shortage situation

To the editor:

Football Referee C

The officiating crisis had finally hit the fan and with as much mess as what usually hits the fan!

The basketball fiasco with both boys and girls playing at the same time was predictable.  Basketball officials start at lower levels and gain experience doing lower level games working up to varsity level.  Many go on to do high school varsity and college for years.
Many of the officials you see now on courts are gray hairs or bald and a tad slower from the many miles of pounding the hardcourts.  And they are not readily being replaced.
Football officials have the same problem.  I officiated football from 1980 through 2017, doing freshman/JV, varsity and was an Observer of Officials for the MHSAA, observing and rating officials mechanics and positioning.  My old crew is still intact and doing OK, Wolverine, KVAA league games and a few are doing college games on the weekend too.
The reasons I notice, besides the obvious, such as irate coaches and fans not understanding the rules or just sounding off:
1.  Young football officials need to have about $250 for a uniform (ss and ls shirts, black pants, turf shoes and accessories (whistles, marker bags, flag, down markers, athletic supporter or compression short and shirt, etc.)
2. They are starting or early in their working careers or still attending college.  Time is of the essence balancing work, college and officiating
duties, plus travel time.  When you are making less than $200 for one week of games (freshman/JV/varsity), it is a poor investment versus return.  You must attend rules meetings and association meetings every two weeks and usually attend at least one clinic before the season.  With no compensation for attending or time away from home.  It’s money out of pocket before the season!
3.  If an official is married and has children, more stress, it’s more time away from home.  I know more than one official divorcing because of this.
4. Officiating is an obsession, especially if your crew is highly regarded and in demand.  I loved being on the field, being around players and coaches, especially in a big game either in season, playoffs or state finals.  I had the privilege of being selected in 2010 to officiate the Division 1 Final.  It was an honor.  I was given a hotel room to stay the night before the game, paid $115 for the game, plus mileage. It is not a money making proposition.
My recommendations for improving the situation:
1)  Completely change the compensation to higher money per game:  Such as $65 for freshman football, $80 for JV and $120 for varsity.  That would be $265 per week.  Plus be compensated for mileage at 40 cents per mile for each official to and from their home.  Most officials now receive $0 for travel.  At least the monetary increase would offset the time away from home.  There are nine regular season games.  That would make a weekly compensation roughly $300 per week for three games and mileage (9 × $300 = $2,700 for the regular season)
2)  MHSAA to pay each official a minimum of $200 per game per official for post-season playoff games and $250 for finals assignments.
3) Athletic directors or assistant ADs be physically at each game to monitor coach and crowd behavior.  If law enforcement is required, make the call and get the situation under control.
Every school spends big money for their sports programs, thousands to millions per year for equipment, coaches, field upkeep, lights.  Football is big money for local schools.  Everyone but the officials.
4) Have high schools recruit officials for rocket level games from junior and senior levels.  Officials could help with mechanics and rules enforcement in a class setting. Many young athletes would participate if adults show the initiative to help them along to get started.
Officiating is not a vocation at the high school level, but it is immensely rewarding.
Bruce Schwartz, Wayland


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