Stateline teams struggle to schedule with football referee shortage

“I think everybody’s taken officiating for granted,” says former Big Ten referee.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 11:38 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Jeff Carr has a deep resume when it comes to his time as a referee. Carr recently retired after spending 20 years as an official in the Big Ten, with his biggest highlight working the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC.

The East alum currently assigns referee crews in the NIC-10 but is struggling to get games played on Friday nights. Carr believes the current issues began after many lost out on opportunities due to the pandemic and suddenly retired

“I think some people started looking at it going ‘well, I’m at a point in my career where do I go back’ or ‘maybe now’s the time to step aside’ and as a result of that a number of people stepped aside, there were not enough people coming behind them to fill those positions,” he said.

The former college ref said Rockford faces unique challenges when it comes to attracting officials.

“That pool has even kind of been reduced so- and it’s been a situation too with the other things that are going on with gas prices and things like that, officials are like ‘well, why am I going to drive by five, eight different schools or school districts to get to Rockford,’” Carr said.

“We got at this point in time at our association probably close to maybe 110. So, that’s ok, but when you look at as far as games in Northern Illinois besides the NIC-10, that’s definitely not enough officials,” Carr said

Between the Stateline teams in the NIC-10, BNC, NUIC, and eight-player football games, 25 games will be played on Saturday this season. The leagues will also see a handful of Thursday games and some Friday afternoon games as well. The NIC-10 will play all five of their week one games on a Saturday.

“Part of the Chicagoland group all stated and went to their conferences and said ‘you got to pick one weekend where you’re going to play Saturdays so the NIC-10 took that and decided the first weekend, so instead of playing on Friday night the 26th they’re playing on Saturday the 27th,” Carr said.

Logistics in scheduling this season hasn’t been easy.

”We found some weekends that I only had three crews but I needed five and we made some adjustments where one school said they would play on Saturday and we were able to get officials and then I had one game that was going to be somebody’s homecoming so they needed to play Friday night but another two teams stepped up that were playing and decided they would play at four so I had a crew that could work at four and then turn around to work at 8 a.m. at a whole different game,” Carr added.

Carr hopes people will be patient as crews do their best to cover Stateline football games.

“I’m going to tell you right now that people are going to go to games and there’s going to be people officiating that this may be the first time they walked down the varsity football field but you got five people out there, somebody’s got to start somewhere,” he said, ”There’s no official that cares who wins and who loses and if there’s any fan that feels differently about that then they ought to come forward and try officiating.”

As for solutions, the NIC-10 assigner hopes to see more recruitment from the IHSA.

“The IHSA has to do something with that too as to try and become a little bit more aggressive to promote these opportunities,” Carr said.