As far back as 2001, the National Association of Sports Officials saw this coming.

The organization put out a 42-page manifesto that year titled, “How to Get and Keep Officials." It reported that 90 percent of the states and sanctioning organizations faced a serious shortage of officials in almost every sport.

Things haven’t gotten any better in the 16 years since.

In most places, including Iowa and Illinois, the shortage has gotten worse.

The number of people who are willing to officiate athletic events at the high school level and below drops with each passing year, leading to fears there soon will not be enough certified officials to handle all the scheduled events.

“I wouldn’t call it a crisis, but it’s getting close to a crisis, in my opinion," said Mike Botts, who assigns officials for seven sports in the Mississippi Athletic Conference and the Western Big Six.

There are many reasons for the decline, but at least one factor is the abuse that officials take from fans, coaches and athletes.

“My motto is: I thrive on rejection," said Bettendorf's Ken Ferris, who still is officiating basketball and baseball in his 70s. "That’s what officiating is about, being rejected all the time."

The growing shortage of officials is this week’s Big Story.

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