TEMPLE, Texas — Central Texas high school basketball coaches have been in constant contact with Chad Horton for years. As the assigner for the Temple chapter of the Texas High School Basketball Officials Association, Horton works with the coaches his chapter covers to make sure their games from seventh grade to varsity have officials.
"Normally, the biggest concern is whether we can add schedules or if we need to get rid of a couple of schedules because of numbers," Horton said.
That was the least of his concerns this year. Temple chapter membership dropped by 43.5% for the 2020-21 season. COVID-19 opt-outs were the main reason for this drop.
"Totally understandable, people don't want to risk their health," Horton said, noting that chapters all across the state are facing the same issue, although the extent of each is different.
In a normal season, Horton said the chapter has 160 officials to handle its schedules from as far west as Goldthwaite and Hico down to Rockdale and Thorndale. That also accounts for officials who are injured or unavailable due to other commitments, including full-time jobs.
This season the Temple chapter has 92 officials. As of Thursday afternoon, eight Temple chapter officials are in quarantine due to COVID-19.
Horton said he had to do something he'd never done before on January 5: cancel sub-varsity games at four schools because of a lack of officials.
"If a neighboring chapter hadn't had a cancellation and been able to help out, I would have had to cancel a set of varsity games, too," he said.
Each school was limited to one gym and no more than three games. Horton said other chapters in the state have had to tell schools they can't officiate sub-varsity games, at all, some nights.
There's no real solution this season, either.
"There have been several nights this season that the only reason I have been able to fulfill the games that are played is because games have been canceled because one of the teams is having coronavirus issues," Horton said.
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