You might say Al Hull sees his job in terms of black and white. He's helped keep order on the court for more than 30 years, as a high-school basketball referee.

"You know what, they pay you to exercise," Hull said. "It's great; (I) love being around kids, been a football coach, coached Little League -- I just enjoy it."

Hull is among Alaska's 1,045 high-school referees. That total's a drop of just over 150 from last season -- and it's also the state's lowest level since the 2006-2007 season, when Alaska had 987 referees.

The head of the Alaska School Activities Association, Billy Strickland, is not surprised.

"Historically, people tend to do that for a long time, and we've kind of had an exit of some of our older officials statewide," Strickland said. "So the need for officials statewide is there."

There's nothing easy about being a referee. It's physically demanding, and then there's the second-guessing.

"The abuse, (it's) not from the coaches or kids, but it's from the parents, the wannabe referees," Hull said. "Everybody is a referee up in the stands, but everybody referees half the court. I wish everyone would referee both sides of the floor, but, it never happens that way."

Hull says he has has no plans to step away from the court, but he and his colleagues could use more help.

ASAA has information about working as a high-school referee on its website.

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