On an average Friday night this season, Central Virginia Football Officials Association commissioner Tyrone Hicks will have crews at 28 games. Some nights the schedule increases to 30.
The association has 164 active officials, including a few clock operators.
“You can do the math,” he said. “[With 30 games], that’s 150 people if I’ve only got [five-man crews].”
Ideally, Hicks puts seven officials on the field. But the math isn’t adding up these days in the officiating world — locally, statewide and nationally — and not just in football. In what has been an ongoing issue, the number of officials has been shrinking because of various factors, made more acute by COVID.
For football, that means using reduced crews or potentially shifting some games from their traditional Friday night spots. Two games early in the Virginia High School League season (Forest Park-Mountain View and Fort Chiswell-George Wythe of Wytheville) were moved from Friday to Thursday because of a shortage of officials, according to the league.
“I don’t know if I can say we’re looking at that more and more, but I do know the officials are doing their very best to try to accommodate the schools,” VHSL assistant director for athletics Shawn Knight said.
“But when you’re dealing with already declining pools of officials, and now you’re dealing with a pandemic where some officials may not feel comfortable continuing to serve at this time, that challenge is heightened.”