Leaders from more than 50 sports organizations will discuss officiating recruitment and retention at the first-ever National Federation of State High School Associations Officials Consortium April 12-14 in Indianapolis.
A recent survey of state high school associations indicated that about 50,000 people have terminated service as high school officials since the 2018-19 season — the last full school year unaffected by the pandemic.
“We found that everyone is working on the same issue, but there is no strategic collaboration between the entities,” said Dana Pappas, director of NFHS Arbitration Services. “We understand that everyone depends on our pipeline at the high school level, so we want to work together to rebuild and keep that pipeline healthy and find ways to do the work collectively instead of everyone doing it alone.”
Leaders participating in the Consortium – who come from the youth, high school, college and professional levels of the sport – plan to discuss the common issues surrounding recruitment and retention of officials that have resulted in these staggering numbers. They will also work together to develop strategies to address the national officials crisis.
“We believe the current crisis involving the shortage of civil servants across the country has gone on far too long,” said NFHS CEO Dr. Karissa Niehoff. “By uniting our sport leaders, we intend to develop a collective strategy that provides an effective yet timely solution to address the pandemic-induced decline in officials and the unsportsmanlike behavior of students, coaches, parents and other fans. “
Retired NBA referee Bob Delaney is the Consortium’s keynote speaker on Tuesday. Delaney, who refereed his first NBA game in 1987, most recently served as senior vice president of NBA officials. His career work includes officiating over 1,700 regular season games, 200 playoff games and nine NBA Finals. In 2003, he received the Gold Whistle Award from the National Association of Sports Officials.
Other Consortium speakers include representatives from the NCAA, NFL, NASO/Referee Enterprises, Big Ten Conference, Collegiate Officiating Consortium, Officially Human, Pictor Group, various state associations and national Olympic sports governing bodies, all of whom have expressed an interest in banding together to address the growing shortage of civil servants.
“As we talk to these groups, we realize that instead of just talking about the problem, they want to be part of the solution, which is exciting,” Pappas said. “We want to get everyone on board instead of everyone trying to do their own thing to achieve the same goal.”
Upon completion of the Consortium, a toolkit will be developed by the NFHS for distribution to state associations and organizations wishing to become involved in restoring the health of the arbitration pipeline.
Throughout May, the NFHS will also be hosting section online meetings for officials and other interested parties to learn Consortium strategies and receive information about the toolkit.