HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With students back in the classroom, athletes are tackling the competition on the field.
Now that high school football is back in full swing, the Friday night lights are brighter than ever. But there's a looming issue around the sport that could dim its spotlight.
Rudy Zertuche has been officiating games for 40 years and sees a problem on the horizon.
"I'm here to help out these newer guys so they could understand how to deal with the coaches," Zertuche said.
According to referee recruiter Michael Paul, for every high school added in the region, you need about 35 officials to cover the footprint that school created. The shortage is attributed to age, on top of those moving up to higher levels of competition.
"If they can move up and to get into college ranks, then they're not doing high school anymore," Paul said. "So you're constantly needing to replenish those guys that are either retiring or moving up in the different ranks."
Also contributing to the shortage is the association's decision to move from 5-man to 7-man crews a few years back. While that's helped improve the overall safety of the game with more eyes on the field, it's increased the need for more officials. If the decline continues, that could mean a shift in days. Instead of the big games happening on Friday nights, they could move to Thursdays or Saturdays.
Paul's mission is to find new members and get them through the proper training. Officiating pays around $45 a game in the beginning, but pay increases with experience.
In addition, Paul says they're not just looking for men.
"There's actually several women that we have in the Houston chapter that have worked their way up. One's working college games now," Paul explained.
If you're interested in joining:
New Members of the Houston Chapter of TASO Football
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Referee shortage threatening Texas high school football