High school football officials in Maine are collaborating in an effort to manage the current shortage of referees in the state.
According to The Piscataquis Observer, Tim Kenney, who assigns officials for the Eastern Maine board, and the assigners of three other boards across the state, recently met with Mike Burnham, executive director of the Maine Principals Association, to discuss the officiating shortage and the future of officials.
The assigners are now set to meeting with each other every two or three weeks to discuss the season and their needs.
“We are all going to help each other out,” Kenney said.
The meetings will allow the different regions to alert one another if they have a shortage and help one another fill vacancies throughout the season.
Despite low numbers, Kenney said his board currently has 47 officials and uses five-person crews for varsity games. If there are nine games on a Friday night, they can't afford to have more than two officials unavailable. Kenney has tried using four official teams but said that's not ideal.
“But that leaves the field unprotected and they are throwing the ball all over the place these days,” said Kenney, who noted that a four-man system would cut the back judge out of the rotation.
Kenney is also trying to add new officials to the mix, holding meetings every Thursday at a middle school in Bangor, which include classroom work. Officials who complete the 12-week training will initially be able to work at the youth and Pop Warner levels, where only three officials are required per game. From there, they can move up to junior varsity games later this season.
Junior officials would also need to take and pass the National Federation of Football Officials exam by Nov. 1 in order to become certified for varsity games.
They have to be at least 18 years old, and must purchase uniforms and shoes, which cost around $300, Kenney said.
“The average age of our officials in eastern Maine is 57, so we’re looking for some youth,” said Kenney. “There has to be somebody out there who has played high school or college football who would like to be involved in the game.”
At the high school level, officials receive $92 per game and are reimbursed for mileage.