Thursday night lights the new norm due to ref shortage

KIRKWOOD, Mo. – It used to be that high school football was the king of Friday night, but if traditions are meant to be broken, they were certainly busted up at Kirkwood High School’s Thursday night varsity game against Francis Howell High School.

In total, 13 football games had to be moved from Fridays, according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association, something that is happening at schools across the country.

“The shortage of officials is affecting all sports,” said Mark Probst, Sports Scheduling Service. “The coaches, the fans, the parents, and the way they get treated when they are out there officiating.”

Referee and back judge Sean Nolan said he’s been on the receiving end of that abusive behavior many times in his 20 years as a referee.

“Typically you don’t hear a lot of compliments on your performance,” Nolan said. “What people are pretty quick to point out is the stuff that you don’t do well and the things that you missed.”

Michael Wise, father of a quarterback for the Pioneers, said while emotions can sometimes bring out the worst in adults during their child’s sporting events, having a hostile attitude toward an officiate is unacceptable.

“Passion and emotion have been part of the game since I could remember, right? Just gotta figure out where the limits are and keep yourself in control,” Wise said.

Wise said he also supports the schedule split and doesn’t believe it will affect his or his son’s daily routine.

“We’re busy with our kids’ activities all throughout the week anyway,” he said, “whether it’s football baseball or PTA meetings so we are busy throughout the week, it’s just a matter of a different night for football.”

But even with the bleachers packed in the middle of the week, can such a trend last?

“The issue I have -- are the student bodies keep turning out?” Probst said. “They have school tomorrow, so are they going to be here to support their team? I think they probably are.”

Probst said there’s a dire need for an official in every sport, except for swimming. Information on how to apply can be found at www.mshsaa.org or by email at mprobstref@yahoo.com.