Referees — are they getting worse?

We see more and more missed calls every game, so are the referees to blame for this crisis?


Evan Hughes

Referee’s at Sutton’s girl’s basketball playoff game against Springfield Renaissance.

Jacob Prue, Staff Writer

Refereeing has become an issue in nearly every major sport. While the NBA referees usually take the headline as the worst, the NFL and MLB umpires are slowly getting up there as well. And from blown calls to unnecessary ejections, the crisis seems to be getting worse and worse.

Now I’m not saying that refereeing is an easy job. And there are loads of replays in slow motion that we get today that refs

never have. But there are calls to a lot of people that seem like no-brainers that are being missed left and right. And fans are starting to have enough of it

LSU Coach Kim Mulkey reacts to an offical’s call in the NCAA Women’s Championship game (Insider)

As one of these fans, I wanted to see the issue with how referees seem to be going on a downhill trend. So I went to the best referee I know to try and see the reason for the referees’ mistakes, and how the problem could be can be fixed. His name is Mr. Bilica.

As most of us students know, Mr. Bilica is a science teacher and ESports coach here at Sutton. But he also is a referee as well. He referees basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, and (his favorite) football.

When I asked Mr. Bilica about the declining ability with refs, he stated that the refs were not bad, in fact, they are easily the best refs there are to get. Like the athletes, the better the referee is, the better leagues they go to (High School to College to the pros). These are the best referees that the sport has to offer and most other refs would struggle to make the right calls.

Coach Lisa Bluder was also often unhappy with the officiating during the championship game. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Mr. Bilica then went on to say how a big issue with refs is the shortage there seems to be all across the sports world. Fans often share inappropriate words towards refs and umps, and with the addition of social media, it has become a lot easier to chastise a referee for their mistake and use them as a scapegoat for a game that has been lost. This leads to discouragement for people as they do not want to be the person called out for making just one mistake.

So what’s the correlation between the shortage of referees and calls being missed? Well, when athletes travel constantly between games, especially on a road trip, players are often more fatigued than they normally are, causing them to have sluggish performances. Well, the same thing happens with the refs, as they constantly have to be moving around the country in order to make sure the games are happening.

The referee starts the game with a tip-off for Sutton’s girl basketball playoff game. (Evan Hughes)

Another question I asked Mr. Bilica is whether players should be given penalties and fouls for showing emotion, celebrating, or arguing a call with the ref. He said that he has no issue with a player showing emotion and celebrating, but they should be called for arguing with the refs.

In the pros, the referees and players have a personal connection, and because there are no active mics on players, we don’t know if something personal and out of line has been said by the players. Therefore the ref has no choice but to give the call.

The final question I asked Mr. Bilica is how can leagues help out the referees to make sure the mistakes are made to the minimum. He says the league could make rules much more straightforward and have examples of what they should and shouldn’t call. Rules like roughing the passer and traveling are very vague and the referees have very little to base on what they should and shouldn’t call.

Mr. Bilica says that there are camps and clinics where former professional referees train and help out referees by using practice plays and scrimmages. Mr. Bilica has attended a couple of these camps and said that most if not all of the best referees usually go to these camps to improve. After all, just like the players and fans, the referees love the sport and want to watch it be the best it can be.