Maine creates new position to combat decline in referees

July 29, 2019 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
The sharp decline in high school officials is a nationwide issue, but Maine is fighting it head on by creating a new position to focus on recruitment and retention.

The Maine Principals’ Association (MPA) last week announced Jeff Benson as the new “commissioner of officials.” The MPA and Officials Advisory Committee had previously employed a commissioner of basketball, but the creation of the new position allows the person in the role to focus on all sports.

From the Bangor Daily News:

Subject areas (in the job) would range from recruitment and retention of officials, ensuring all officials undergo required criminal background checks, and helping to provide more uniformity in such areas such as rules interpretation, the nomination and assigning of postseason officials and contract negotiations with officials groups.

The part-time position of commissioner of officials would be subsidized by MPA at the same level of funding — approximately $12,000 annually including expenses — that has been used to fund the commissioner of basketball, said Mike Burnham, executive director of the MPA’s interscholastic division.

Employing qualified, experienced high school officials — and retaining them — has been a massive challenge in states nationwide. Some athletic association leaders have characterized the issue as a “crisis.” They’ve said one of the major deterrents is the verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse referees take at the hands of fans and coaches.

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State associations and schools have ramped up their recruitment efforts, and some high schools have even launched officiating classes to garner interest among students.

Benson brings a long list of qualifications as he steps into Maine’s commissioner of officials position. He spent 28 years as an athletic director, 32 years as a basketball official, 29 years as a baseball umpire, and 15 years as a soccer official, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Read more from the Bangor Daily News.

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