UIL bumps minimum pay for high school football officials to fight shortage

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Changes are coming under the Friday night lights for the most crucial team on the field -- the officials.

A shortage is leading to a bump in pay, for some, and the University Interscholastic League is about to simplify the entire mileage reimbursement system.

It's complex, and has taken two years to change. Two factors go into a football officials paycheck: a percentage of ticket sales at the gate, and money for travel.

The UIL is raising the minimum amount a football official can make from $60 to $100 to help with those nights when there's barely anyone in the stands.

And when it comes to travel, instead of schools having to calculate where each official lives, and how far they drove to get to the stadium -- there will be flat fees based on a certain radius.

"It should help a little bit," said Jerry Campbell, who has been officiating high school football games in Central Texas for 10 years.

Thursday night, he was working the Travis High School vs. Austin High game at House Park. He and his crew always show up two hours before the game, and often get home around midnight.

Campbell day's job is sales. "At times, that's up and down so this is a good backup, and something for me to have fun with and enjoy the game that I've always loved," said Campbell.

Wayne Elliot, 59, is about to celebrate 40 years on the field.

"I love it out there, it's my favorite thing on the earth to do," said Elliot, a real estate agent who doesn't do it for the pay. "I think the smallest check I've gotten this year is $120. I believe and the best one I've gotten was $395," said Elliot.

The high dollar game was at Westlake High School. Elliot said he never missed a game while battling throat cancer in 2011.

He also serves as the secretary of the Austin Football Officials Association, which involves keeping up with the 384 officials in the local chapter, and making sure all of the games are covered.

"It's getting harder to keep people," said Elliot. The UIL says officials complaining about pay is nothing new -- some think they don't make enough, and the schools think they're paying too much.

Elliot says Texas refs have it better than most. "You go work a varsity game in any other state and you're going to get $75 whether there's 10,000 people there or 100 people there," said Elliot.

Campbell and his crew always try to look at it as a win. "There's nothing like Friday night football in the state of Texas," said Campbell.

The new UIL payment system will go into effect next school year.

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