Nebraska High School Sports Experiencing Referee Shortage

Dec. 6, 2021, 6 a.m. ·

two players and an official line up for the tip-off of a Nebraska High School basketball game.
The NSAA is in need of more referees for all sports, and they hope fans can be more sportsmanlike to the people officiating high school. (Archive photo by Nebraska Public Media))

Listen To This Story

Nebraska Schools Activities Association is experiencing a shortage of game officials as the high school basketball season begins in the state.

Jon Doliver is an assistant director responsible for basketball and supervisor of officials at the NSAA. Last season officials were sparse, he said, and this past fall and upcoming winter seasons haven’t been any different. Doliver said he’s concerned how schools will plan out officiating.

“I think the shortage is going to come in with our lower level games, whether that be junior varsity, reserves, freshman, junior high basketball games,” Doliver said. “I think that’s where our schools are going to feel the challenge of finding, finding officials to work those lower-level contests.”

Fortunately, registered NSAA officials are required only for varsity games.

Doliver said there are four reasons why officials quit. Finding another job, spending more time with family and age are three reasons he's heard. The fourth and latest reason they’re stepping away is the lack of sportsmanship from crowds.

“We do hear from officials about the way fans treat them,” Doliver said. “You know, obviously that’s concerning to us. These people take, you know we talked about the time, well they’re taking time away from their family, maybe their job, so that our kids can play basketball.”

And it’s not just basketball either. In fact, Doliver said basketball is in a better officiating situation compared to most sports.

There are 870 registered basketball officials in Nebraska, which is comparable to last year, according to Doliver.

Some referees work 10 games in a season, while others work up to 80 games.