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Some C.O. basketball games may get canceled if more referees aren’t found

(Update: Adding video, comments from COBOA)

'Some of those ex-players need to start coming up, because we're becoming an older group'

BEND. Ore. (KTVZ) -- The high school basketball season is a few weeks away, but out of 80 referee positions, only 50 are filled.

Since the start of the pandemic, most high school sports have struggled with filling official positions.

Mike Smith is the commissioner of the Central Oregon Basketball Officials Association (COBOA).

“Well we're down considerably,” Smith said Monday, referring to the number of officials. 

He said because girls and boys basketball play in the same season, with each program possibly having a freshman, JV and varsity team, there is a higher demand.

The middle school season starts in November, with high schools following in December.

“(There are) 27 games and 75 slots to fill,” Smith said, talking about a typical in-season week. “And so I’m out to try and save officials and not overwork people and/or ruin the quality of the officiating.”

Smith says the 50 who have signed up are either vaccinated or in the process of getting an exemption, and believes the requirement could play a small role in the shortage. 

“I’m sure it's going to,” Smith said. “I don’t really pry into why they’re not coming back or not.”

Yet he added that he believes the main reason for the shortage is most officials are of the Baby Boomer age or older, and a lot have decided to move on or retire.

“Some of those ex-players need to start coming up, because we're becoming an older group,” Smith said.

Steve Hodges is the president of COBOA, and has officiated basketball in Oregon for 39 years. 

He said if they can't fill the spots, games will get canceled. 

“Sometimes we have to trim games away from the sub-level games, and put a priority on the varsity games,” Hodges said. “But one thing that we cannot do is ,we cannot overwork officials so they get hurt and injured.”

The part time-position pays $72 for officiating two middle school games, $60 or more for a varsity game, and $50 or more for JV and freshman games.

“Money is getting better, but it's not competitive to what’s going on around the whole community, in terms of workforce and getting people who want to come out and do things,” Smith said. 

However, Hodges said the energy of being part of the game, along with the recognition for the job you’re doing, makes it worthwhile.

“I have never seen the appreciation for us doing what we do more than I have in the last two years, since the pandemic started,” Hodges said.

Nationwide, there has been a steady decline of high school sports officials over the years. Last year, the decline of officials was unprecedented.

According to the Oregon School Activities Association, last year, Oregon suffered a drop of 26.4% in officials across all sports. Basketball was particularly hard-hit, going from 1,086 officials in 2019-20 to 632 this year, a 41.8 percent decline. 

COBOA will have its first meeting Monday, Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mountain View High School Library.

For more information on how to become an official, contact Mike Smith at 541-389-5204 or

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.



  1. Shocking right? Hmm no. Not an unintended consequence when plenty of people warned about positions that would not fill due to many reasons, like the vax mandates. Anyone really believe that an unvaxed official poses a risk to youth at a basketball game? I would love to hear that argument by using any of the current data.

    1. “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.”

      1. Than why are they so short? Why aren’t new ones coming in to replace departing ones. If all the other officials are set there would not be any more needed. Sorry but it doesn’t add up. What is the most likely reason? Pretty sure that is obvious.

        1. I had a job back in the day which required me to leave home in the evening for meetings and such. I hated that part of the job and left after several years. A lot of folks wouldn’t attend meetings because they would rather stay at home.

  2. People have been quitting all kinds of jobs, so no one should be surprised. Being a basketball ref has always seemed like a thankless job to me because of abuse from fans over unpopular calls.

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