The shortage of officials has become so dire that the state of Maine has created a position that will focus entirely on combating issues related to the recruitment and retention of high school officials.
“The biggest issues we have right now are trying to retain the people that are on those boards and also how do we increase the membership in officiating, because it’s obvious it’s not something people are getting into for various reasons,” Jeff Benson, Maine’s first commissioner of officials, told The Piscataquis Observer.
Benson is a longtime high school and collegiate sports official and former school administrator.
“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Jeff’s experiences, both as a highly respected school administrator and as an outstanding multisport official,” said Mike Burnham, executive director of the Maine Principals Association interscholastic division. “I look forward to working with him as we grow and develop the role of the commissioner of officials.”
The MPA, in cooperation with its Officials Advisory Committee, is transitioning from its former commissioner of basketball post — which dealt with officiating only in that sport — to a more all-encompassing position designed to help provide consistency among all of the state’s officiating groups.
In his new position, Benson will serve as a liaison between the OAC and the MAP.
“There’s no sport that’s immune,” Benson said of the attrition within the state’s officiating ranks. “I just know the two groups I belong to, the Western Maine Board of Officials [basketball] and the South-Central Maine Board of Umpires [baseball], have lost a pretty good amount of guys in the last five to 10 years.
“How do we help those boards solve those problems? It’s a daunting task that we are facing, no question,” he said.