Football Official

Football Official


Somewhere in, NJ

Male, 62

I've officiated football for over 30 years, now in my 26th on the college level. I've worked NCAA playoffs at the Division II and III level. In addition, I've coached at the scholastic level and have been an educator for over 35 years. I have no interest whatsoever in being an NFL official! Ever!

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321 Questions


Last Answer on March 15, 2018

Best Rated

Do you think the replacement refs ARE actually worse than the regular refs? Or are the coaches and players going overboard in trying to intimidate and incriminate them?

Asked by Go LeSean!!! over 5 years ago

In the spirit of full disclosure, I know officials on both sides. I've worked with some at the high school and college level. I believe the replacements were put into a very difficult situation. They are officials - at some level - but are unfamiliar with the intricacies of NFL rules, the speed of the players at that level, and the nuances of what goes on at the line of scrimmage and downfield in the pro game. Like so many others have said, I think the replacements did the best job they could. I do feel that as the pre-season and then the regular season got underway, coaches and players saw what they could get away with (perhaps more than they could with the regulars) and pushed the envelope.

Do NCAA and NFL refs typically hold other jobs, also?

Asked by A-Train over 5 years ago

Yes. As far as I understand, the only major sport in the US that has "full-time" officials is baseball. While the salaries the NFL officials make is significant, they are employed full time elsewhere. They are lawyers, educators, finance people, and a host of other professionals. College officials, even in the highest level conferences, don't come close to the income of the NFL officials so they definitely have regular jobs.

I read this a.m. that NFL refs will make, on avg, $173K/yr starting 2013. Am I missing something, or does that seem insanely high for like 20 days of actual work? Or is there a lot more work that goes on behind-the-scenes?

Asked by Big Rich over 5 years ago

It always comes down to money. What is anyone worth for their labor? Is A-Rod worth $240 million? Is any performer worth the money they get for a movie or a concert? What will the traffic bear? As you watched the first three weeks of the NFL season, I'm sure there were a few times when you thought that whatever the NFL paid the regular refs wasn't enough. The big questions here, and in any profession, is what is your expertise, your skill, your time worth? Your question notes 20 days of work. Well, it's a bit more than that. As an educator, I would get similar comments like 'you only work 10 months' and you only work from 9 to 3. Not exactly. Go to the answers on this site about teachers. The woman writing does a good job explaining the hours/days that teachers put in well beyond the "9 to 3". Same for officials. For starters, all of us started out doing Pop Warner, midget leagues, and JV games. And we got a lot less than $173K. The first high school JV game I ever did I earned $15. There are tests to take, clinics to attend, conditioning to do - and that's on "your time". NFL officials have to be at the game city the day before, where they do film study together. That's in addition to film and rule study during the week on their own. Yes, the behind-the-scenes work is pretty extensive, and it also reflects years of work leading up to the ultimate assignment. A quick comparison: I can work a Division II game and get $195 for the game. But I have to arrive there three hours before the game and I'm usually there an hour after, what with game reports, hearing from an observer, and cleaning up. So I've been on site for about 6 hours for $195. That's just over $32/hour. That doesn't include the weekly pre-season study groups I attended, the two-day rules/conditioning clinic I attended, and all the other preparation I put in before I even stepped onto a field. Is it a lot of money? Sure. But I feel they've earned the right to make that. And you have something to compare it to the last three weeks.

Do you find yourself acting as a referee OFF the field? Meaning, are you the natural mediator when it comes to arguments between friends, family, etc?

Asked by Anthony (BK, NY) over 5 years ago

I don't get paid enough to mediate my family's problems. I don't get paid enough to officiate football, either, but I WANT to be there.

All of the talking heads on TV were droning on about how much FASTER the NFL game is than other levels - how much truth is there to that? Is it really that much harder to officiate?

Asked by carryon over 5 years ago

The talking heads love to talk. But some of them have bodies below those heads that actually played the game. And they're right. Go to a local high school game and watch the players, not necessarily the game. Then go to a college game - doesn't have to be "big time" - and compare. Take that up one more level to the NFL and the difference is staggering. I still work high school games, and I do it primarily with other college officials. It is, comparatively, much easier than doing a college game. Why? The skill, size, and speed of the players. There aren't many calls to be made in the average high school game that a decent official can't make. It gets a bit more challenging at the college level, and I'm only talking about D2 or 3. I've also worked as a practice official for a nearby D1 program. Bigger than high school players? yes. Faster? yes. More skilled? yes. And there are more of them with talent. A top high school program might have maybe 1, 2, or 3 kids who could play D1 (and not necessarily in the SEC). A college team at D1 has, well, everyone who can play there. And the very top D1 programs might have 4 or 5 players who will be drafted into the NFL. NFL teams have....uh, you get the picture. With the increase in the size, speed, and skill of the players comes a commensurate need for an increase in the skills of the officials. Talking heads droning? Yeah, but this time they have a point.

Do you think there should be some equivalent of a technical foul, like in basketball? You guys seem to take an awful lot of abuse without really being able to do anything about it.

Asked by nelsonhaha over 5 years ago

Well, if you judge abuse by what the replacement refs were taking, then yes, we take a lot. But look at baseball. Kicking dirt, going nose-to-nose with an umpire. I know coaches/managers can be ejected, but umpires take a lot, probably more than in any sport. A lot of this goes back to communication and control. You need to communicate with the coach about what is going on. They have a job to do and so does the official. The coaches will say a lot, usually about a missed call. But eventually they have to coach. Sometimes they'll keep going and then communicating with them is the key. "Coach, I'll watch for that", or "Coach, I'll find out what the other official saw as soon as I can". If they keep harping, the best thing to say is something like, "Coach, I know you're upset, but if we keep going back to that play, you're going to cause me to miss the next one" or, ultimately, "Coach, we have to move on. that one is over". Many coaches, especially as you move up in level, are pretty smart. They'll come over to you and more quietly say something on-on-one so no one else hears it. And contrary to popular opinion, they really don't question your heritage or parentage. The rule of thumb for officials: if no one else hears it, then it's just between you and the coach. But if he really goes off, and your mom, who you invited to the game and is sitting right behind the team, hears it, then you can flag him for unsportsmanlike conduct. But truthfully it doesn't happen very often.

Do you take players’ body language reactions into account? eg if 4 def. players IMMEDIATELY start waving their arms "incomplete", I say that's real evidence that you should take into acct. It's MUCH harder to fake immediate reactions than ppl think.

Asked by howard over 5 years ago

Defenders ALWAYS signal incomplete. Receivers ALWAYS signal catch. If they think they were held or interfered with, they ALWAYS wave their hands as if throwing the flag. They react very quickly, because they believe there was a foul. And there is the big difference between a player and an official. Officials don't BELIEVE there was a foul, they KNOW it. Four defenders waving their arms "incomplete" to me says four defenders blew their coverage.