▶️ High school sports referee shortage could worsen with pending vaccine deadline

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High schools around the state are dealing with major referee shortages and local athletic directors believe things may get worse.

“We had to have football officials from Southern Oregon travel up here and soccer officials from Southern Oregon travel up here just to cover all the games we had going,” said Bend Senior High Athletic Director Lowell Norby.

“So far between JV and varsity we’ve had to reschedule at least a dozen,” said Ridgeview Athletic Director Sam Platt.

Oregon School Activities Association Executive Director Peter Weber says there is a 10-30% statewide drop.

“We’ve seen a steady decline over the last 10 years or so, just kind of a slow and steady decline, but then when the pandemic hit last year, we had the truncated seasons, we saw a bigger decline,” Weber said.

 The numbers could keep dropping as officials are required to be vaccinated by October 18th.

“The unknown right now is how winter sports are going to be impacted,” Platt said.

“We’ve been told in wrestling there is only one official who is vaccinated for all of Central Oregon,” Norby said. “So this is a big issue right now.”

It puts athletic directors and referees in a tough position.

“We don’t know what we are going to do,” Norby said. “We are just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”

In the meantime, Platt says athletes and spectators should give the zebras some grace.

“Every one of our referees is scheduled every night and that takes a toll on people,” Platt said. “So, when you are at sporting events, be patient, be kind and just recognize we are here and we are really happy to have games and really grateful that those officials are on the field so that we can do that.”

The OSAA is looking to hire new officials.

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