Sports

Shortage of Officials Could Shuffle BIIF FB Schedule

July 20, 2015, 5:59 PM HST
* Updated July 21, 7:34 AM
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A shortage in officials could lead to some Big Island Interscholastic Federation football games being moved to Thursday nights.

Randy Morris, president of the Big Island Football Officials Association, tells Big Island Now that the BIIF will hold a meeting on Saturday to discuss the idea and determine whether it will happen this year. A league coach says that some games have already been tentatively moved.

In a given league week, as many as five football games could be played between Friday and Saturday nights, not including junior varsity contests played before varsity games. That includes four 11-man football games and one 8-man football game. The most recently adopted BIIF schedule has at least three games on one night per week for most of the season. One week in particular had four games scheduled on one day.

Morris says that as of right now, there are only enough officials to cover two sets of crews per given day. Three officials from last year are no longer involved in officiating and as of right now, no one new has stepped in.

“We used to be able to go to HPA and do a day game, and then send them to Hilo and do two night games, but the guys we got, they’re not that young,” Morris said.

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The weekly schedule for football officials, on top of family and work commitments, is taxing, Morris stresses, given that they do more than just BIIF games.

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“We’re meeting every Tuesday night, we have games Friday and Saturday, and then we have Pop Warner all day Sunday,” explained Morris. “It’s a commitment.”

On a weekend with five games at five different sites, it could be possible that one singular officiating crew could work on each night from Thursday through Saturday, if the schedule is approved.

The addition of 8-man football, now in its second season as a league-sanctioned sport, has added to the burden on these officials. Three schools – Kohala, Ka’u, and Pahoa – currently participate in the 8-man game. At least two other schools have at least explored the idea of joining in.

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On some nights, 8-man teams may be facing an altered junior varsity team from an 11-man squad at the same site as a varsity game. Many days, however, those 8-man games are being held at the home site of the smaller schools.

This schedule is not a done deal. Konawaena first-year coach Brad Uemoto said from what he has heard, other coaches don’t approve of adding Thursday games, citing logistical challenges off of the field.

“If you look at our schedule, we have a lot of Saturday games,” Uemoto said. “When we play on Saturday, we take off Sunday and we usually go light Monday to get these kids a little bit of rest before getting back into contact. In that sense, we would go Tuesday full contact and Wednesday would essentially turn into a walk through day. In that perspective, you’ve got only one day of actual full contact in practice.”

Additionally, not all schools can host a game on Thursday night because of different field conditions. For example, Hawai’i Preparatory Academy and Kohala can only host games on Saturday afternoons because they don’t have lights at their game sites. Additionally, Kea’au and Waiakea have pledged to play weekend games during the day to save money on light costs.

“I wouldn’t want to [play on Thursdays] just because we’ve already come up with a weekly practice plan. It will definitely put a hiccup into our practice plan,” Uemoto explained.

On the administrative end, schools are already working to schedule buses for games throughout the year. Ticket sales could also be impacted by a move to Thursdays, which not only affects football, but other sports who rely on fundraising efforts at concessions and other avenues during football games.

This problem is not just limited to the Big Island, though. At last month’s Football Officials International Aloha Clinic, held on Oahu, Morris said that other officials discussed shortages in other states. NFL referee Tony Carente headlined the three-day seminar.

“We want to put out quality officials [on the field],” Morris explained. “We don’t want to just put new people out there just to get people on the field. We want to have quality people who know what they are doing.”

BIIF officials did not return calls for comment prior to press time.

Big Island teams will hit the field for the first time on Saturday, Aug. 8. Two games will be held on the Big Island: Kealakehe hosting Maui and Honoka’a facing Waialua. Two other games will be held on Oahu: Waiakea at Moanalua and Kamehameha-Hawai’i at Kalaheo.

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