ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – On Friday nights, the lights shine bright at high school football games. But as the season kicks off, you could possibly see fewer people wearing black and white stripes this go around.
“You know, when I started, you were married to the chapter. It was chapter first, wife, and then God,” said veteran football official, Darrin Cox.
Cox told KTAB/KRBC he’s had the best seat in the house for the last 37 years, and the atmosphere of the game is what’s kept him going.
“Once you get out there, you won’t leave,” Cox explained. “You’ll have a blast, it’s fun and you’ll really start enjoying it and make good money doing it.”
With the change of the times, members of the Abilene Football Chapter report being down 20% in its referee personnel this year, making it difficult for them to be at games.
“We’ve turned back some games, we’ve shortened crews,” Cox listed. “Instead of a 5-man crew, we’ll send a 4-man crew, and that just makes it tough for everybody.”
Board member Paul Wallace said he’s been officiating games for five years now.
“Without officials on the field, our high school kids and junior high kids don’t get to play their games,” Wallace explained.
Wallace continued to advocate for the referee work, by saying his experience has been nothing but positive.
“Coaches are great to deal with, fans are great to deal with. We will have respect for them, and they will have respect for us,” Wallace said. “So, we’ll have a great night and have no issues.”
The referee shortage not only affects football, but basketball, too.
“Every year we get people on the court if they’re interested, and just try to train them. So that, by the time the season does roll around, they’re prepared and ready to go,” said Caleb Smith with the Abilene Basketball Chapter.
These referees are left working with what they have, and are doing their best to make sure the schools, students, and coaches are served well.
Although football season started Thursday, August 25, Wallace said there still may be time for them to train and get more referees out on the field. Click here to register.
As for basketball, new member meetings are set for September 21 and 28. Basketball games start the first week of November. Officials can register online by clicking here.