Schools changing football schedules due to referee shortage

The opening week game between Hill City and Osborne was moved up to Thursday night because officials weren't available for Friday.
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 6:28 AM CDT
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OSBORNE, Kan. (KWCH) - It’s that time of year again. High school football is back. But the classic Friday night lights may be turning on, on a different day. Some schools are changing their schedules because of the lack of officials.

“We’re out here in farm country,” high school official Kevin Buser said. “There’s not that many of us doing this.”

The game between Osborne and Hill City was scheduled for Friday, but due to the officials shortage, those Friday night lights turned on instead on Thursday.

“The shortage we’ve been talking about for years, and it’s finally starting to show its head out there,” official Scott Krier said.

The National Federation of State High Schools says that over the past three years, about 50,000 referees across the country have hung up their whistles. Officials at Thursday’s game in Osborne say they love what they do, but they understand why people are leaving the job.

“You are losing out here a crew or two every other year, and that makes it difficult to pick up the slack for us guys that are working and wanting to stay active,” Krier said.

Those in attendance say the schedule change affects just about everything from referees to families -- even the players. Coaches and families say the game just doesn’t feel the same, but it was the only option to avoid canceling the game.

Osborne athletic director Tammy Patee says she knows this will impact players’ preparation time.

“It does shorten the high school kids one day for prep time, and that’s a big deal in football,” Pate said. “Same with the school kids. They’re going to be out late tonight and have to get up in the morning. It’s going to interfere with a few of the things and the attendance, I’m sure.”

These referees just hope that fans are understanding and patient. They say they can only be in so many places at one. And with this shortage, schedule changes will likely become the norm.

“If we can’t come up with more officials, specifically in western Kansas, you’re going to see a lot more games on Thursdays or even Saturdays,” Buser said.