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Will there be enough referees when area sports resume? Local officials aren't quite sure.
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Will there be enough referees when area sports resume? Local officials aren't quite sure.

Long-time Morro Bay High School Athletic Director John Andree and long-time area sports official Chuck Hare saw each other at a Home Depot in San Luis Obispo recently.

They talked about the first-time-ever position both found themselves in. There was plenty going on when it came to home upkeep. When it came to their work in the sports realm, there was nothing going on, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the time of year when we’d be holding officials’ meetings, going to football scrimmages,” said Hare, who has been officiating football, basketball and baseball on the Central Coast for about 28 years.

“Now there’s nothing. I talked to John and he said, ‘I have nothing to do,’” when it came to the work of being an athletic director.

August is the month that fall sports typically begin on the Central Coast. That was scrubbed this year because of the pandemic.

Football was tentatively pushed back to January of 2021, with all other sports set for the spring of that year, if safety conditions allow. Football teams can tentatively start workouts in December.

Hare and Los Padres Officials Association game assigner Mike Ostini see so many sports crammed into a short amount of time exacerbating the problem both say the Central Coast has when it comes to a shortage of officials.

Ostini has been a game assigner for 14 years for an organization that runs from Paso Robles to Santa Ynez and a sports official for 46. Now, he officiates mainly football and softball.

With so many sports crammed together in the spring season, Bob Rollins fears, “One of the things that might happen is we’ll have to tell a school we can’t assign officials to their game.

“It’s highly unlikely that will happen, but it’s a possibility.”

Rollins is in his second year as president of the Los Padres Football Officials Association.

Come several months from now after having nothing to do, area athletic directors and sports officials will have PLENTY to do. In fact, Ostini fears they will have far TOO MUCH to do.

“I really feel for the athletic directors,” when it comes to the scheduling bind he thinks they will be in come the near future, said Ostini.

As for his own anticipated predicament when it comes to scheduling officials, Ostini said spring sports overload will exacerbate the problem the Central Coast already has concerning a shortage of officials.

“We’re just not getting enough of the young ones,” who are interested in officiating said Ostini, a statement with which Hare concurred.

As far as the scheduling situation he’s in now, “There’s nothing to compare to it,” said Ostini.

“I had all my assignments for (2020) varsity football games plugged in,” then the pandemic scrubbed that.

“High School football plays once a week, but you also have youth football that plays on Saturdays, and there will be all these other sports that play multiple times a week.”

Ostini said, “We do have a number of officials (in the area) who do multiple sports.”

Hare is one of those, and he sees himself running into a situation he dreads - having to deal with a scheduling conflict in which he has to choose between one sport or the other to officiate.

Besides being the game assigner for the Los Padres Football Officials Association, Ostini said he is president of the California Football Officials Association.

Thus, he said, he oversees around 1,700 football officials, mainly in the CIF’s Southern Section, and has the same scheduling headaches with that organization as he does here, only magnified.

“I’m almost to the end of my two-year term, thank god,” Ostini said with a chuckle. “It ends in January.”

Game conflicts aren’t the only problems on the horizon.

Stephen Field is the Arroyo Grande High School athletic director. Hare said, “I saw Stephen recently, and I said, ‘When you have to schedule gym time for all your boys and girls basketball teams and all your girls and boys volleyball teams, what are you going to do?’. He threw up his hands and said, ‘I don’t know’”.

Above all, there are the safety concerns, for officials as well as everyone else.

“If the virus is still with us, and all indications are that it will be, Will (officials) still do this?,” said Rollins.

“I have a pretty good idea of how many officials I’ll have, but there are no guarantees.”

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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