May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Shortage of high school football officials a major challenge for CIF Southern Section

Officials join players from Savanna (left) and Santa Ana Valley for the coin toss in March. (Photo courtesy Mark Bausman, For OC Sports Zone)

CIF football is back in Southern California with a full slate of games, which benefits fans, players and coaches.

But getting enough football officials to work those games has become a challenge, according to CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod.

People who enjoy football may be interested in picking up some extra dollars and signing up to be one.

“It’s an on going challenge, it was a problem prior to the pandemic, but certainly the pandemic and the circumstances with that have not helped the officials,” Wigod said during an interview with OC Sports Zone last week covering a number of topics.

“We are actively recruiting for officials, we’ve been working with our schools to do it. We have a website here (at CIF) where anybody who is a prospective official or interested in officiating we can turn them over to one of the officiating units in the geographic location they live or anywhere they would prefer to work and we can get them right now into contact with the officials association and get them on the road to the start of officiating.

“We’ve done outreach to our schools, to the general community, we’re out there actively looking for folks who would like to be involved in officiating high school athletics and that will continue as we want to try and address that shortage and beef up our officiating ranks.”

Last week, there were 12 Thursday night games in Orange County, which Wigod said is a result of the shortage of officials.

“We’ve been dealing with that probably for a couple years now where schools are being asked to move games to Thursdays or Saturdays in football, for example and some other sports too,” Wigod said.

“It’s something we need to keep working on because down the road here if it’s in the situation it is now, what’s it going to be like in five years? Hopefully, it’s going to be a lot better, but if it’s not, this is going to continue to be a problem and the last thing anyone wants is that we can’t play a game because we can’t have officials. But that could be the direction we end in if we can’t start to beef that up.

“And we need to treat the officials better. It’s really important that our schools and our coaches and our parents and everyone involved in high school athletics treats our officials better so we can hold on to officials and they’re not looking at getting out of officiating because of the way they’re treated. Everyone is a part of this, this is not just the officials responsibility or the schools responsibility. This is everyone who loves high school athletics to be involved in trying to make this a better situation.”

Wigod said some people have decided not to return to officiating.

“They may have some concerns about being out there in a global pandemic circumstance,” he said. “We have some who have done it long enough and just decided when we paused the sports, it kind of gave them an idea of what it was like when they weren’t officiating and thought, ‘maybe this isn’t so bad now without running out to doing four or five different athletic events a week.'”

For information on how to became an official in a CIF sport, go to the CIF website and look for the officials section.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com