Bill Carollo, the Big Ten coordinator of football officials, speaks with reporters during an NCAA college football news conference at Big Ten Media Days, Thursday, July 22, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten Conference is a bit insulated from the nationwide officiating shortage in youth sports.
“I have enough people applying, and I have a good staff,” said Bill Carollo, the conference’s coordinator of football officials, at Big Ten Media Days in July. “If they don’t go to the NFL, they can work 15, 20 years for me. And we have really good officials and trainers.”
But he knows the Big Ten isn’t totally immune from the problem. As fewer people choose the profession, it could have a ripple effect at the college level.
“We take the top people, but it’s a lot nicer to pull from a bigger group of people,” Carollo said.
Application numbers already are significantly lower than what they used to be.
“When I started, if it was 500 in the Midwest, it’s down to 200 or 150,” Carollo said. “The pool isn’t big enough.”
The shortage of youth and high school officials has been well documented, both locally and nationally.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association saw the number of registered officials fall in the state from 1,557 in 2013 to 1,357 in 2019, according to a 2019 Gazette article.
About 50,000 officials stepped away from the profession since the 2018-19 academic year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Carollo said the problem is “kind of a part of our society.”
Central Iowa Sports, a youth sports organization in Des Moines, ejected 17 parents from baseball games in one weekend alone this summer, according to WHO-TV in Des Moines.
A youth basketball league in upstate New York cut the rest of its 2021-22 season short because of unruly parent behavior, according to the Rome (N.Y.) Sentinel.
“What used to be good-natured heckling has turned mean, insulting and violent,” said Karissa Niehoff, the NFHS executive director, in a 2022 column on the organization’s website.
As Carollo took questions at a podium on the artificial turf of Lucas Oil Stadium, the problems facing his profession were abundantly clear. The solutions to stopping the hostility from parents? Not so much.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here doing reffing if I had solutions to big problems like that,” Carollo said.
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