By NFHS on April 11, 2022

Leaders from more than 50 sports organizations will descend on Indianapolis April 12-14 to discuss recruitment and retention of officials during the first-ever NFHS Officials Consortium at the Conrad Hotel.

A recent survey of state high school associations indicated that approximately 50,000 individuals have discontinued their service as high school officials since the 2018-19 season – the last full school year unaffected by the pandemic.

Dana Pappas, NFHS director of officiating services

“We discovered that everyone was working on the same problem, but there is no strategic collaboration between the entities. We understand that everybody is reliant upon our pipeline at the high school level. So, we want to work together to replenish and keep that pipeline healthy and figure out ways that we can do the work collectively instead of everyone doing it on their own.”

Leaders attending the Consortium – who come from the youth, high school, collegiate and professional levels of sport – plan to discuss common problems surrounding the recruitment and retention of officials that have resulted in these staggering numbers. They will also collaborate to develop strategies intended to solve the nationwide officiating crisis.

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, CEO of the NFHS

“We believe the ongoing crisis involving the shortage of officials across the country has lasted far too long. By unifying our leaders in sport, we intend to develop a collective strategy that provides an effective, yet timely solution in addressing the decline in officials brought on by the pandemic, and unsportsmanlike behavior by students, coaches, parents and other fans.”

Retired NBA referee Bob Delaney serves as the Consortium’s keynote speaker on Tuesday. Delaney, who officiated his first National Basketball Association (NBA) game in 1987, most recently served as the NBA’s Vice President Director of Officials. His career work includes officiating more than 1,700 regular season games, 200 playoff contests and nine NBA Finals. Delaney also worked the 1998 and 2011 NBA All-Star Games. In 2003, he was awarded the Gold Whistle Award from the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO).

Delaney’s distinguished officiating career followed a highly decorated career as an undercover New Jersey State Trooper. After 35 years, he continues to provide training to federal, state, county and local law enforcement officers and agents throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

Other speakers at the Consortium include representatives from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Football League (NFL), NASO/Referee Enterprises (REI), Big Ten Conference, Collegiate Officiating Consortium, Officially Human, The Pictor Group, various state associations and national governing bodies for Olympic sports – all of which have expressed an interest in coming together to address the growing shortage of officials.

Pappas said-

“In our discussions with these groups, we realize that instead of just talking about the problem, they want to be a part of the solution, which is exciting. We want to get all hands on deck instead of everyone trying to do their own thing to accomplish the same goal.”  

At the conclusion of the Consortium, a toolkit will be developed by the NFHS for distribution to state associations and organizations wanting to be involved in restoring the health of the officiating pipeline. Throughout May, the NFHS will also host sectional online meetings for officials and other interested parties to learn the strategies of the Consortium and to receive information about the toolkit.

For more information on how to become a high school official, please visit www.HighSchoolOfficials.com.