New KHSAA official licensing supervisor looks to end referee shortage

Published 4:28 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

When Scott Bottoms of Danville started officiating Little League and recreation league games in Boyle County as a student at Eastern Kentucky University, he never thought that would be the start of a 30-plus year basketball officiating career.

Now, the veteran official is taking on a new role with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association as the supervisor of officials licensing. He will oversee the licensing process for nearly 4,000 officials and 80 assigners in various sports across Kentucky.

Bottoms will also be in charge of the final implementation of RefReps into Kentucky schools and colleges to help integrate officiating education into the curriculum to help attract new officials.

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“Over the last several years, there has been a decline of sports officials across the country. I recently read that in the last few years in all high school sports, over 50,000 officials have stepped away,” said Bottoms. “I will try to recruit officials for all sports, not just basketball. You name it, every sport needs more officials.

“I used to think there was a real shortage of officials in a state like Texas where some high school football games have not been played because of a lack of officials. But it has hit home in Kentucky. Look at the KHSAA website at the games being played on Thursday or Saturday nights because schools were told they had to move games because there were not enough officials to cover Friday night games.”

He said he recently was in a meeting with athletics directors in one region when two of them got calls during the meeting telling them to cancel Thursday night games because there were no officials.

“To be real honest, we are aiming for anybody we can get to sign up,” Bottoms, who officiated the boys state basketball tournament eight times, said. “There have to be some young adults who have graduated from high school and either did not go away to college that have an interest in sports. They could get a little exercise and make a little money. Hopefully, there are a lot who have had an interest in officiating but just never stepped forward to get registered and get training.”

Bottoms had a family member who never played football who started officiating flag football in college. He got “hooked”, got into high school football officiating and now has worked two state championship games.

“It had never crossed his mind to be an official but he loves it now,” Bottoms said. “We have an aging population in our officials, so I am encouraging each official to recruit a replacement and then serve as a mentor for that person.”

Bottoms says it is “100 percent accurate” that the verbal abuse officials often take now discourages others from becoming officials. He noted a recent survey of 36,000 officials revealed that 40 percent thought the biggest sportsmanship issues were caused by parents at games and 25 percent by coaches.

“As I go to games and watch how people behave, it upsets me and is disturbing,” Bottoms said. “I think if this pattern continues we will not have enough officials for their children to keep participating in sports. I know people think you are just saying that but it is true.”

He said a few weeks ago a young woman decided to try officiating but by the middle of the first quarter of the middle school basketball game had doubts about her decision because of “unruly parents.” As she left the gym with the veteran official, they were confronted by parents.

“She got in the car and said, ‘This is probably not for me,’” Bottoms said. “Social media just destroys people. Today everyone likes to complain and that makes it hard to attract officials.”

Anyone interested in officiating can go to https://khsaa.arbitersports.com/front/104219/Site to get registered.

“We are going to mentor and help you. We are going to have a junior registration for 14 to 17-year-olds so they can do middle school games and get a feel for officiating and get started at an early age because we just have to have more officials,” Bottoms said.