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Oregon facing high school football officials shortage

To compensate for the shortage, schools are scheduling more nights of football so refs can cover more games with fewer people.

PORTLAND, Oregon — For high schools across Oregon and beyond, the hallowed Friday night lights now illuminate football fields on most nights of the week. The reason is a shortage of football officials.

Before the pandemic, members of the Portland Football Officials Association (PFOA) said they had around 190 officials in their rotation but now they're down to 150. 

To compensate for the shortage, schools are moving at least one of their games to a night other than Friday night. 

“We're out there doing the best we can to keep people safe, to keep the game fun with good sportsmanship and to keep it fair,” said Rob Fuller who’s in his 21st year of officiating high school games. “Nobody wants that more than we do.”

As head of the PFOA’s recruiting and retention committee, Fuller hopes others will consider becoming a high school football official.

RELATED: Portland football games are in dire need of more referees

Each July, they offer a six-week course that puts new officials on the field by September. Officials earn between $45 and $65 a game.

“First and foremost, you need to love football," said Fuller. “We also need someone who has integrity and is willing to go out there and put their integrity on the line to make decisions that they know some people aren't going to be happy with.”

The drop in officials took a big plunge during the pandemic, as people pared down their schedules or just didn’t return when sports started up again. 

But even before the pandemic, school activities officials said there was another reason for the steady decline: verbal abuse, harassment and other unacceptable behavior by some coaches, parents and fans. 

This month the Oregon School and Activities Association called it a trend that must be stopped. They cited a national survey that showed abusive behavior was the top reason high school sports officials had been quitting.

“We come out here and give it our absolute best to try to be perfect,” said Fuller. “I would love for people to know that no one wants to get it right more than we do.”

RELATED: All-female crew of high school football referees makes history

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