Premium Partners

Could Former Inmates Help Solve the Referee Shortage?

Jason Scott

It’s no secret that there is a shortage of people willing to become high school sports officials. Low pay and the high likelihood of verbal abuse from coaches, parents and fans, combined with the handful of stories of physical altercations and threats are not exactly a recipe for recruiting more refs.

From ABNo Referees, No Games

Add to that the alarming rate of attrition — according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, an average of only two out of every 10 referees continue officiating into their third year — and you’ve got a nationwide problem.

Fewer officials mean that teams are left to scramble to find people to cover games, a situation that may put games at risk of being cancelled, particularly at the sub-varsity level.

A novel solution to the referee shortage popped up in Iowa, from sports official and correctional officer Jim Bice.

From the Des Moines Register:

“…Bice has started recruiting inmates to become high school basketball officials when they exit prison. He’s only talked to a few so far, he said.

“Non-violent offenders who made poor choices in tough environments as young men,” Bice, a basketball official since 1991, said of the inmates he’s taught.

Bice knows first-hand: They can find work officiating boys and girls basketball in Iowa. Lots of it.”

What do you think? Is Bice’s solution a workable one for the shortage of officials plaguing high school athletics? Or should the focus be on other solutions? If so, what would your proposal be? Let us know in the comments.

AB Show 2021 in San Antonio
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Learn More
AB Show
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide