Breaking News
More () »

Tackling the high school referee shortage in Iowa

Just a few weeks ago, IHSAA was 250 referees short of the number they had last year. They've since filled the gap, but what comes next as the shortage continues?

DES MOINES, Iowa — Just a couple of weeks ago, the Iowa High School Athletic Association was about 250 referees short of the number they had last year. 

Luckily, they've managed to almost completely fill that gap before week one of high school football season, putting them at a little more than 1,300 football officials — but they're not fully in the clear yet. 

Like many other states, Iowa has dealt with a shortage of officials for high school sports. 

Some sports are hit harder than others, like baseball and softball. Some games even had to be rescheduled or cancelled due to a lack of umpires.

Football, on the other hand, has been able to stay afloat —  barely. 

"We pulled numbers and we were about 250 football officials les than what we had the previous year," said Lewie Curtis, director of officials for IHSAA. 

In the past couple of weeks, IHSAA was able to eliminate that deficit. However, just because they're able to maintain that number, doesn't mean its ideal. 

"We generally have enough, but it's skating a very thin line there on whether we do or not," Curtis said. "For any one school, it only takes being short one crew." 

Plus, with about half of their current referees being over the age of 50, Curtis said the problem will likely get worse if they don't start increasing those numbers. 

"There could be a fairly substantial collapse at any moment," Curtis said. 

They know they can't do it alone, so they've been working with other local officials associations to get their input on the issue. 

For now, they're grateful for the officials they do have that make it possible for high school athletes to play the sports they love. 

For more information on how to become a high school referee, click here.

Local 5 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out