When the high school football season begins next week there will be some difference due to COVID-19 and that includes the officials.
The game referees will be required to drive to the game separately and be dressed and ready to go as there will not be locker rooms for officials.
They will also be wearing masks.
"On the field you won't see a whole lot of differences other than the mask," Assistant Supervisor of football officials for the OK Conference TJ Restau said. "They have to wear this (mask) at all times currently right now with the executive order that has been put out. That is going to cause a little bit of frustrations because of the whistle usage in a game and we are going to have to figure out how we are going to do that."
There are electronic whistles but the supply has outgrown the demand and they are currently hard to get.
Another change for officials is they will attempt to avoid any contact with players.
That means the umpire may need to back up and there is no pulling players off a pile even if there is a fumble.
"As officials we'd go in and especially the nearest two we'd go in and actually start separating bodies," Restau said. We are not going to do that you have to train your mind to say get off, get off, get out of there, let me see. So that ball could exchange a couple three times in there who knows who comes up with it so it is going to be a little different."
Having enough officials is a concern in a normal year, that has become an even larger burden now.
"Right now I think we have close to 20 officials that have opted out for the season this year due to COVID or family issues," Supervisor of football officials for the OK Conference Brad Brunet said. "And some booked some travel or couldn't get off work due to the fact that the season was canceled and now its back on."
Brunet may need to get creative this fall in order to get enough referees for games at every level.
"Some guys might be doubled up, some games may be even moved to Saturday if there's that big of a shortage," Brunet said. 'We are going to try to make sure there is five officials for every varsity game for sure but some of the lower levels it might work out where there is only three officials or four officials."
Officials will be needed more now than ever and there is still time to register and get trained at wmoa.net.