Lack of high school football referees in Ozarks causing Friday games to be moved
Dan Murphy said he's been recruiting referees for high school football in southwest Missouri for a long time, but no year has been more difficult than this one.
The need for officials has gotten to the point where the Southwest Missouri Football Officials' Association and Joplin Football Officials Association have asked some teams to move games from Friday to Saturday nights due to a lack of officials.
Lamar and Springfield Catholic won't start their season under the Friday night lights. They're going to have to wait another 24 hours to play on Saturday.
"I've done this for about 15 years," Murphy said in a phone interview with the News-Leader. "This is the toughest one I've had."
Murphy serves as the recruiting coordinator to bring in officials for high school football games throughout the Ozarks. He said numbers are down across the state as he's been hard at work trying to make sure he has enough spots whether they're taken by first-time officials or ones he tries to pull out of retirement.
A typical night in southwest Missouri uses 30 crews throughout the Springfield and Joplin area. He said on five or six of the Friday nights throughout the season, 32 crews are required.
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Murphy said they are short two crews because there aren't enough reserves on their singles list to make those up. A singles list can help fill in for others if an official were to be injured or can't make a game, for example. In 2020, there were enough on the singles list to make up for the additional crews needed and some college officials were available for Fridays because of the lack of college football during the pandemic.
"The singles of last year's crews had to move to fill the holes in the crews," Murphy said. "We still have some holes in some crews to where we're trying to get some veterans back that retired to fill the crews."
Murphy said he is short about 15 officials and is recruiting for more. At the moment, there will likely be more four-man crews on Friday nights instead of the typical five that are used during varsity football games.
"I have never had a problem recruiting football officials to service our association," Murphy said.
Anyone interested in becoming an official is encouraged to reach out to Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 417-849-7367. New officials will be required to go through classes starting Aug. 8.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at email@example.com or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.