(WXYZ) – The Mount Clemens college football team were supposed to enter the field on Friday night for their annual comeback game, but they couldn’t find enough referees to referee the game.
The shortage isn’t unique to Mount Clemens or the Detroit metro area, athletic coordinators say it’s happening statewide.
We called at least four sports departments in metro Detroit, all of them said they had to postpone or advance a game because they didn’t have enough referees to cover the pitch.
Officials say the issue is long overdue and is impacting match calls, fan experiences, and student-athletes as a whole.
“These boys were in tears yesterday,” said Kyla Foster, whose son plays for Mount Clemens.
His heart breaks for his son Darren who will miss his return game for the second year in a row now.
Mount Clemens announced that they had to cancel the game because they did not have enough referees.
Foster doesn’t buy it and says parents spent hundreds of dollars on special boys’ swimsuits.
“Now you want to tell me all of a sudden we don’t have umpires so how long have you known we don’t have umpires my son asked that question,” Foster said .
Unfortunately, the referee shortage is very real and widespread, according to Geoff Kimmerly, who works for the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
He says they lost 25% of their football referees last year.
“We didn’t bounce back, we didn’t lose more than last year, but we didn’t add, so we’re still down about 25 from what we usually would be for officials. That said, this is the first college game that couldn’t play at all, ”Kimmerly said.
In most cases, sports departments will have to postpone or advance matches by one day in order to have enough referees.
Monroe’s football coach Ian Cook said the shortage had affected his team more than once.
“We’ve had a number of games where we expected three officials and we’ve only had two,” said Cook. “And over the weekend in particular we had a tournament and for the last 3 games we only had one official so we had to use our college junior players like what we call the officials of the club.”
Kimmerly says recruiting referees isn’t the problem, it’s keeping them that’s the problem.
“Fan behavior has gradually deteriorated in some places, making it difficult to keep people interested in doing it,” Kimmerly said.
Not having enough body on the pitch can impact penalties and in the event that the game is called off completely, it could change a team’s season trajectory.
“I don’t know if it’s a loss, I don’t know if it’s considered a forfeit,” Foster said.
We have contacted Mount Clemens varsity coach to see if the game will be rescheduled, but have yet to hear back.
Parents and players say they were planning a protest at 4 p.m. Friday.