Rural areas of Tennessee dealing with a football referee shortage

Posted at 5:06 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 23:08:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's a time-honored tradition on Tennessee Friday nights. High school football teams across the state, compete under the lights in front of hundreds of fans. But behind the scenes, NewsChannel 5 has learned it's becoming harder to recruit key positions, essential to having a fair game — referees.

Greg Morgan is a leader with the Middle Tennessee Football Officials Association and has worn the white hat for decades.

"Friday night is king for football in Tennessee," said Morgan.

He says, because of Nashville's population growth, our region has enough referees to take the field.

"We’ve got a lot of people that have moved in from other states into the Nashville area, that officiated where they lived previously so they’ve joined our association," said Morgan.

But the rest of the state is a much different story.

"In the more rural areas, that’s where we’re really struggling in the state of Tennessee," he said.

TSSAA is the governing body of high school athletics and doesn't want to have to cancel games, so they're getting creative. "We’ve moved some games from Friday to Thursdays," said Morgan.

"In Nashville, we will typically have 4-5 crews every Friday night to another area to cover games that other Associations don’t have the numbers to cover."

Eventually, they hope to recruit people familiar with running the field.

"We actually have a policy where we go around to different high schools and recruit players — saying when you get done playing come be an official," he said.

This comes as every sector seems to struggle with hiring these days, and they don't have to deal with unruly fans.

"You have to have a thick skin. People are going to yell. You just have to get over it," said Morgan.

But Greg had a pretty similar answer for why he continues on.

"These guys are my friends. It’s the relationships and the friendships that you make," he said.

He hopes, if you have what it takes, and look good in stripes, you'll become one of his friends too.

If you are interested in training to become a TSSAA referee, click here:

For more information on the Middle Tennessee Football Officials Association, click here: