Football Official

Football Official

Zebra

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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Last Answer on October 13, 2017

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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 about 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 a coach's yells and pleas have any effect on a ref's decision-making? Or are you immune to it?

Asked by Georgia Dame about 5 years ago

Regardless of the level of play, officials are human. We actually do have feelings, and no one enjoys getting yelled at. That being said, if you are really doing your job properly, you have to turn off the outside distractions, including coaches, players, and fans. And you'd better develop a thick skin and leave your emotions in the locker room. You have to try to be objective and "call what you see". Officials don't care (or shouldn't care) who wins or loses. Now, as a young official who is human (see first part of answer) can you be influenced? Sure. Are there "make up" calls? There shouldn't be. But as an official, a big part of your job is communication with the coach. You need to establish a relationship, especially the officials who work the sidelines, with the coach. He wants answers to questions, he wants and needs information (ask Bill Belichick) to do his job. And that means giving him both good news ("Coach, it will be your ball if you decline the penalty") and bad news ("Coach, your right tackle was holding; that's gonna be 10 yards"). The good coaches, and most of them are decent, know you have a job to do; if you communicate with them and do your job to the best of your ability, the yelling and screaming just become background noise to the game.

Why didn't the NFL just get NCAA D1 refs to fill in, given that they've probably officiated games of at least similar intensity, crowd size, etc?

Asked by Bones_11 about 5 years ago

That would make a lot of sense but it would have been a very dicey situation. Many of the D1 conferences use NFL officials as their supervisors of officials (e.g. Big East, Big 10, Big 12, C-USA). If the NFL used officials from those conferences, the officials would be replacing their own supervisors and their supervisors' colleagues on the NFL games. Can you say UGLY?

How can the NFL say unequivocally “Golden Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference, which should have ended the game”, and not reverse the game result? Has the NCAA ever reversed the actual result of a game after the fact?

Asked by 1time about 5 years ago

To the best of my knowledge, that has never happened. And I don't think it should. If you open that can of worms and set a precedent for changing results after the fact from what occurred on the field, there would be no end to the challenges. It would call into question every decision, every call, every outcome. The old saw goes, 'It's a game played by humans and judged by humans'. You have to live with certain things. And as a side note, the official who made the call apparently is publicly saying he was right. Heard that on the radio this morning.

If refs absolutely cannot agree on a call no matter how much they review a play, what happens then?

Asked by JSB about 5 years ago

Uhh, you do agree. There are no "do overs" because officials can't agree. And when push comes to shove, that is why the white hat is there. There will be plays (need I remind you of Seattle-Green Bay) where two officials see it differently (e.g. catch-no catch on a pass that is close to the ground). You confer. Someone has to convince the other. And, as I said, the referee is there to mediate and guide the discussion. On a pass play, for example, the college axiom is 'when in doubt, wipe it out'. But that assumes there is no replay (it's not available at Division II or III) or that there is no clear opinion from both officials. Be assured, there will be a decision.

Have you ever been offered a bribe to favor a team in a game you were reffing?

Asked by howard about 5 years ago

No. And if I was offered, I certainly hope I would have the character and integrity to say no. And then to turn the person in to the appropriate authorities.

Do you think the replacement ref debacle in the NFL gave comfort to refs in other major sports about their own job security cuz they're now thinking "my league will never risk a PR disaster like that, so we've got more leverage now"?

Asked by kaliko about 5 years ago

Good question and very interesting. There is no question that the Monday night game with the controversial ending was a catalyst to get the deal done. But I think the NFL was in a unique position. It is, with some contrary notions, the most popular sport. There is heavy gambling on the NFL (not that the league "worries" about Las Vegas books), so it garners a lot of attention. But not every call made during the lockout was in error. And not every replacement official was bad or didn't belong at that level. You can find very competent replacements - the NFL, as I noted in another posting, did not use highly competent Division 1 officials who MIGHT have done a better job. If the NHL locked out its officials, what kind of outcry would there be? With all due respect to hockey fans everywhere, if an NHL game was messed up by a replacement official, how much would you hear about it? Take it a step further: Major League Soccer?