“I was doing a Detroit public school game and the junior varsity plays after the varsity and nobody showed up to the JV game, so there were two teams, two coaches, two sets of fans…and they got the ball, but no officials.”
Mike Gentry has been a high school official in Michigan for decades, so he’s pretty familiar with a big problem Michigan athletics is currently facing: a shortage of high school officials.
"Schools would probably love to have three man crews on every basketball game. You may have games with just one official there, and rather than telling the kids ‘No, you can’t play,’ they have to accept a lower standard," explains Gentry.
In the last 10 years, the number of registered officials in the state has dropped from 12,400 to 10,000. Gentry cites a few different reasons for the decline. "The economy is good. People aren’t looking for jobs. Officiating is a tough job if you take criticism personally."
Gentry says there has been push by the MHSAA to recruit new officials — especially high school seniors.
"They’ll be going off to college. They have an awareness that they’re not going to be playing in college anymore, but it’s one way to stay connected to the sport that they love<' he says.
It’s also not a bad way to start saving for all those college expenses.
Gentry says "Varsity — depending on the conference you work — pays you anywhere from $55 to $70 depending on the sport. Freshman and jv are in the $40 to $50 range."
He knows that if they can’t recruit more officials, it’s high school athletes who will eventually pay the price. High school athletes may have to play fewer games per season, or play with only one or two officials when there should be three.
For more information on becoming an MHSAA official visit their website.