Schools across East Texas experiencing referee shortages for upcoming football season

Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 9:28 AM CDT
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EAST TEXAS (KLTV/KTRE) - Later this month many high school football teams will be reporting for practice for the upcoming season, despite the waning numbers of referees available to officiate their games.

“There’s been an ongoing shortage now for quite a few years, even before the pandemic we were experiencing”, said Patrick Smith, the TASO district 6 director.

According to Smith, the leading cause for the drop in available referees is age.

“What’s behind the shortage? Several factors, one is age. I believe the average age now with an official in Texas football is somewhere in the late 40s-50s range.... we want younger guys, I’m 63 so I’ve been doing this since ‘78. There are other guys who are older than I am, the east Texas chapter I believe has a guy at 92. That’s part of it, we’re aging out, " said Smith.

Although age is a leading factor, the most glaring reason is perhaps the abuse officials receive during these games.

“The new guys that we bring in first year’s kind of rough, learning, learning the trade and so on. Some coaches are little more mouthier than others and so they decide that’s not something they want to deal and put up with .... we also know that coaches are trying to get every advantage they can get, so we recognize those things.” says Smith.

Patrick Smith is a former college referee with a tremendous history and has seen it all. He notes that the shortage doesn’t really affect the varsity teams.

“Our main level is in our sub varsity situations. Middle schools, some of our guys are doing pee wee leagues. You know those guys; those coaches are just parents they get too competitive .. overzealous and so on.

Despite the shortage Smith is optimistic of being able to recuperate the dwindling amount of referees available.

“If we can get ‘em in, keep ‘em for three years the first three years, they’re probably gonna stay with us for a longer time period.”