According to the Oregon Athletic Officials Association, the number of registered officials for high school sports has been declining steadily for the past decade.
The number of registered football officials has declined from 826 during the 2010-11 academic year to just 483 in 2020-21. And the decrease plunged during the pandemic — 175 officials from the 2019-20 academic year chose not to return this year. The dip was the largest in the past six academic years.
And football isn’t the only fall sport facing a shortage. The number of registered soccer officials dwindled from 454 during the 2019-20 year to 350 in 2020-21. In volleyball, there were 424 officials in 2019-20, but that number has dropped to 264 for the current year. As with football, the year-to-year decreases in those sports were the largest in six years.
“We’re already seeing some of that and that will continue,” Weber said. “Depending on the association and the sport, it’s anywhere from 10% to 25%. That varies in different parts of the state. There could be one area where they have plenty of football officials and another area where they don’t have many soccer officials.”
The shortage could become more acute in areas in eastern and southern Oregon, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the state.
For example, Lake, Malheur, and Harney counties each have vaccination rates below 50%. The 15 counties with vaccination rates of less than 60% are primarily located in eastern and southern Oregon.
Jack Folliard, executive director of the Oregon Athletic Officials Association, said he is bracing for a deeper decline in his membership, but won’t know how many officials have departed until after Oct. 18.
“We are going to lose a certain percentage of our officials,” Folliard said. “I think particularly in some of the communities in eastern Oregon and southern Oregon, where some of those communities have different philosophies with the respect to getting vaccinated.”