Please see parts of an email from Julian to all the Assigning Secretaries – send Friday July 29th.
The clinic is live and online. Notices should go out today. Several have already prowled around and found it and taken it.
More to come in the meeting today, but we are down nearly 180 officials as of today from last year (compared to 848 a year ago, 846 during the 2020 Covid shortened year, and 939 in 2019). In many cases, the numbers this year simply represent officials who haven’t taken care of business, but there is obviously a shortage right now. Mr. Cope is sending out regular reminders to those of you who have assigned officials that are not yet licensed.
You were copied on a note yesterday but we are permitting the schools to open their season on Thursday, August 18. This is one day earlier than normal, but may help some of you if they choose to do so.
MECHANICS (PARTICULARLY POSITIONING)
I hope each of you and your associations are spending as much time talking about knowing the correct high school rules and rulings and recruiting and retaining newer officials as you are about official’s positioning. I know for some of you, a renewed emphasis on getting newer officials (and renewed officials) needs to be more of a focus as you are just about out of people to beg, bum, borrow and steal from other associations.
But in any case, wanted to make some clarifications and expectations of the officials working five and seven-person games this season. I apologize that this officially hasn’t gone out before now, but frankly, we were under the impression that revisions had been approved to the NFHS Officials Manual that was printed this year that would allow for more documentation and clarity as well as training aids.
In the end, that committee could not agree on substantive changes (frankly, split right down the middle) and this year’s printed version of the manual did not contain appropriate updates. For that reason, most states are left like us, doing what works best in their state for their teams. And knowing that the level of play is not the same in every local association area, this is always challenging. With that in mind, here are the expectations for our local associations this year, particularly related to the umpire position.
Each local association will determine the initial position of the umpire in five-person games. And this could be done differently by each crew based on that crew of officials (if you work in crews) as many of our newer officials have only worked the position in the offensive backfield for these last three seasons. Frankly, as someone who spend a couple of decades working the position, I feel that the backfield position is FAR superior in monitoring line play and managing the high school rules for the players the U is expected to key off of and officiate. However, there are obvious weaknesses on very few specific plays and situations that some of our local associations have frankly not done a very good job of adapting to with the change. This combined with our loss of veteran officials and shortage of officials in general leads me to determine we need to make a change for 2022 to permit flexibility. And thanks to so many of you who I reached out to for more input.
For those reasons, your groups, and even individual crews, may determine the initial position of the Umpire in 5-person crews only. Nothing about that INITIAL position changes any coverage expectation or areas of coverage. This would be through and including the first-round playoff games where 5-person coverage is assigned in lieu of 7-person at the school’s discretion.
There is no option on 7-person. The initial position of the Umpire will be in the offensive backfield, 8 to 10 yards behind the LOS, slightly outside the last lineman and on the opposite side of the Referee. The Referee remains 13-15 yards behind the LOS on the passing arm side of the QB, and slightly outside the tight end (or last lineman if no TE is present). There will likely be additional clarifications late next week on the 7-person in special situations as several states that use 7-person are meeting during a conference next week to see if we can get some synchronization. In general, the coverage areas remain the same as our previously adopted TSSAA emphasis, but there may be some slight positioning changes.
With the disappointing final product from the NFHS Officials Manual Committee discussions, we will work toward 2023 with some additional training materials to standardize things. Those of you who are still around from the “First and 10” days know that that was always a bit of a pain to maintain but led to the standardization we need. While we had hoped that could be different with the latest version of the Officials Manual, it isn’t going to work and our office will produce those clarifications again.