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‘A critical point’: OSAA still dealing with referee shortages; mandate could worsen crunch

(Update: adding comments from OSAA assistant executive director and video)

70 percent of OSAA referees have been vaccinated

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Schools Activities Association is still dealing with referee shortages, a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the vaccine mandate approaches, things could get worse.

"We are at a critical point in time with high school officials," Brad Garrett, the assistant executive director at Oregon Schools Activities Association told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday.

Last year, there were more than 1,500 registered referees with OSAA. This year, that number has dropped about 15 percent, to 1,300.

“The bottom line is we are seeing fewer registrations for this academic year and then we have the October 18 vaccine mandate coming out,” Garrett said.

“We are at a critical point in time with high school officials, because the one thing we keep doing is adding schools and teams, and our population continues to grow, and our official numbers continues to decline," he said. "When you have trend lines going in opposite directions, that’s not a good thing.”

About 70 percent of OSAA's referees are vaccinated, according to Garrett. That's 900 out of the 1,300 registered referees. Garrett said the other 400 referees are citing a medical or religious exemption. The exemptions are being approved by OSAA, but some school districts have notified OSAA that they will not use unvaccinated referees.

Bend-La Pine Schools have yet to make a decision on unvaccinated referees, while the Redmond School district is approving religious and medical exemptions through OSAA.

Dave Williams, athletic director for Bend-La Pine Schools, told NewsChannel 21 no games had been canceled in the school district, but games have been rescheduled at "unusual times."

It's the same in Redmond. No games have been canceled, but games have been rescheduled to meet referee schedules. Some middle school volleyball games have been officiated by coaches, due to the lack of officials.

Garrett said, “There are going to be select nights, where games are going to have to be moved.”

If you're interested in applying to be a referee, you can click here. OSAA referees make $70 per game officiating 4A-6A football games.

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.



  1. I was a high school and college official back in the 80s and 90s and also supervised officials for 10 years. Back then, we made around $40 per game for varsity soccer and basketball. That was almost fair, considering that I had to leave work an hour or two early, drive to the game, ref the game, drive home. Total commitment around 5 hours, not counting many hours of training, going to meetings, etc. Now, pay is about 60% higher, but cost of living has gone up 150%. So, pay has not kept up with cost of living. That is a major reason you cannot find officials. I would negotiate with schools, and they always resisted fee increases. Fine, that is their job. Fees were set by OSAA. I actually could still Umpire softball, but $65 for about a 4 hour commitment? That is the same as McDonald’s pay.

  2. Mandate refs get a shot that won’t prevent you from getting Covid, won’t stop you from spreading Covid In a field where transmission is almost non existent. Around an age group that is least affected, Makes a ton of sense. The school districts that chose not to allow “unvaccinated” refs way to exercise your rights as a school district. To bad you so t support there right as a American citizen not to get the shot.

  3. Choosing not to get the shot affects no one. You do not understand epidemiology. Don’t feel bad 99.9% of the media doesn’t. We do not use incidence rate to calculate death rate. prevalence rates are used. The big panic was set by incidence rates. The flu infects 20 to 40 million a year. We have a baseline and know the epidemic threshold.
    It is not our right as Americans to force people to do what makes “us” feel safe. If that was the case it could be illegal for every non felon of legal age not to carry a firearm. That would make me feel safe. But probably not you. Just how a shot that almost everyone I know that has received it got Covid. Most with mild to severe symptoms. Also spread it to family and friends doesn’t make me feel safe. And if everyone needs to get it for the greater good of the world, why exempt postal workers? They touch everything! Shouldn’t they be the first to get it? Anywho B. I set some traps here for you, have fun with it. I’m not personally attack you like most people that don’t like you do on this thing. You seem like.a nice guy I just don’t agree with anything you say. As you to me. Probably. And when I see “Statistics show” I quit listening because I know how they came about those statistics and it was the wrong way. Look around you, in your own life what are you seeing? Because almost everywhere I’m seeing the exact opposite of.what “statistics show”. Good luck, and remember if you don’t like the massive inflation and total distractive path america is headed down, vote Trump 2024

    1. Would you dispute that the vaccine greatly reduces the risk of severe illness/death from COVID, or that the hospitalized COVID-19 patients/ICU patients are by large majority unvaccinated/not fully vaccinated?
      As you say, anyone can use/misuse valid stats as a diversion.

  4. Yes I would. After the mandate deadline I know 8 hospital staff members ranging from janitor (1) RN (5) and Dr. (2) from all over Oregon that will come out and shed some light on that topic. The people that haven’t been able to read between the lines and look for themselves that are willing to listen will probably feel different.
    Do you know what they are saying when a hospital says our units are full? We sent home most our staff. Or what about when they are told STOP reporting vaccinated deaths. I have way to many personal experiences not to believe what what I have actually witnessed. I had a relative mid 50s perfectly health pass away 1.5 months after being fully vaccinated. He was in the hospital for 1 week,don’t remember exactly how many test he had but all positive. What do you think his death certificate said on it? I will tell you now your guess is wrong. You would be shock with the amount of cases just like ours. So why are we now not counting Covid cases when we actually have a COVID death? Doesn’t fit the agenda that why.

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