Referee shortages in the region are impacting high school sports

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 8:48 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Week five of Under the Lights is just a few days away.

Before you can fill the stands and the players kick into action, there has to be one key piece in place... referees.

Finding them is an issue starting to affect our local games. Glascock County says they had to move their game from Friday to Thursday because of referee shortages.

To pull off a Friday night without a hitch in and around Augusta, it takes 85 referees.

Now they find themselves in one of their own. In high school football, there would be no touchdowns, no flags, and no game without the ones in black and white.

“We seem to lose more, you know, a few more every year. We were above 100 for quite a while, but it got less each year,” said Chip Huffman, 43rd season as official.

The average age of a Georgia High School Association official is 53. Retiring is just the half of it.

“When you take a young kid out to start learning to officiate, it’s just the abuse is pretty tough from coaches and parents at the youth level. We really don’t have ways to handle it as we do on the high school level,” he said.

The Augusta Association of Officials covers 23 schools, spanning from Glascock to Lincoln counties. Extensive ground to cover without the manpower to do it.

“A varsity game now requires six officials on the field. Most schools now have added a play clock along with the game clock, so we’re required to send out an official for each. On average is eight per Friday night,” he said.

With only 85 stripes to pull from, it’s caused the association to go back to the playbook.

“If Augusta is overloaded, we work with other associations to try to swap games where we can get other associations to come into us and help us with games. Georgia High School has made an emphasis to schools that it is a real possibility that games will have to be moved at some point,” said Huffman.

That possibility is now a reality.

“This is the first week we’ve had to move a game to Thursday. We don’t have the bodies,” he said.

Huffman says this week’s games will not be the only ones moved to a Thursday or a Saturday game. They already anticipate three more Friday nights where area referees will be overloaded.

Registration has closed for the season, but they’ve already begun the hunt for next year.

To apply, visit