Special Report: Blowing the Whistle

An alarming shortage of officials is causing high school games to be rescheduled or cancelled.

Posted: Feb 13, 2019 6:10 PM
Updated: May 3, 2021 12:01 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The shortage of licensed high school officials is severe enough in Oregon that athletic events are being postponed or cancelled, especially at the freshman and junior varsity levels.

Jack Folliard with the Oregon Athletic Officials Association says it is threatening the future of high school sports. 

Folliard said, "We have almost 4,000 officials in the state and now we only have 3,000, so we've lost 25 percent of our officials in the last 10 years."

Peter Weber with the Oregon School Activities Association tells KEZI 9 News this problem is only getting worse. 

"It forces schools to postpone and reschedule contests. We've had cancellations of contests simply without having enough people to officiate," Weber said. 

The athletic director at Churchill High School, Kelly Bokn, says, "Sometimes the parents don't understand why you had to change a game because maybe the weather is okay... but you had to change it because the commissioner calls and says we just don't have any officials for you."

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 75 percent of all high school officials say “adult behavior” is the main reason they quit. And 80 percent of all young officials hang up their stripes after just two years of whistle blowing.

Gary Taylor has been officiating for 25 years and he says the verbal abuse he endures from parents is damaging. 

"Sometimes it makes me not want to come back," Taylor said. "We had a situation where we had parents follow us to the car one time...I mean really," he said. 

Directors say there are more officials over 60 than under 30 in many areas of Oregon. And as older, experienced officials retire, there aren’t enough younger ones to replace them. If there are no officials, there are no games.

Commissioners say they're having a hard time filling schedules because there simply aren't enough officials to cover the games. 

Directors say they're determined to help fix the problem.

"Following each contest, the official (can)...nominate a team or a coach for good sportsmanship," Weber said. "Trying to kind of turn it on its ear, and not focus on the negative but the positive."

They want parents to remember that in the end it's just a game and if this problem isn't fixed soon their children will be the ones losing out.

They encourage anyone who is a leader, has an interest in sports, or wants to give back to the sport they once played, to consider becoming an official. To get started go to www.newofficials.org and it will automatically put you in contact with the local organization near you. Once you join and register with OSAA you will be tested, trained and put on assignments shortly after. 

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