Nashville, Tenn. (WKRN)- Over the last couple of years the shortage of high school referees has become a major issue, not just here in Middle Tennessee, but across the entire country.
The TSSAA has been working on ways to make up for the lack of referees, and Assistant Executive Director Richard McWhirter tells News 2’s Kayla Anderson that this year they will require a majority of football teams across the state to play at least one Thursday game during the regular season.
“We asked every school to move one game to Thursday night in order to ease the tension. Even though we have thirteen-hundred officials, not every official can call every Friday night. I might have eleven weeks of football, but an official may only do eight weeks,” said McWhirter.
Having high school teams play a game on Thursdays this upcoming season may be a short-term solution, but if the referee shortage continues, it will only present bigger challenges in the future.
Siegel High School’s athletic director Greg Wyant says there are many reasons for why there is a shortage of refs in Tennessee. There is the issue with lack of pay and poor sportsmanship from fans is a contributing factor as well.
“I feel like parents and people who come to high school football games pay there money and they feel like they can say what they want, when they want, as loud as they want- which isn’t the case,” said Wyant. “I think that we need to understand that they’re human and they are a part of the ball game.”
Wyant wants to be a part of the solution and while solving the issues with sportsmanship needs to happen sooner than later, he did start up a scholarship program, bringing in a handful of officials for this upcoming season. The program paid for their first uniforms and association fees, but that won’t be nearly enough to fix the problem.
“We would hope that at some point in time people would see the problem and want to get involved. We need good officials, people that the game means something to them whether it be baseball, softball, volleyball or football, we need those people,” added Wyant.
The TSSAA continues to try and find ways to come up with a solution as well and right now encourages anyone interested in officiating to reach out.
“We have began a recruiting campaign which includes sending a letter of confirmation through our Portal to all high school graduates encouraging them to consider becoming a sports official. Anyone interested can contact our office and we will be glad to walk you through the process,” added McWhirter.