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 January 23, 2021

Best Rated

Do you own up to bad calls after games?

Asked by shtcray about 9 years ago

More true confessions. This is an honesty, trust, and integrity thing. Who am I owning up to? I can, and will, admit to my fellow officials that I blew a call, and not waiting until after the game. And truthfully, if you miss a call, you're going to hear it from the coach right then and there. That is when you own up to a bad judgement. There are different situations regarding a "bad" call. An example: I had a game in which there was an interception by the team on my sideline - and right in front of the coach. The defender went up, caught the ball, and then came to the ground -- ALMOST. I thought I saw his knee hit and I blew the whistle. In replaying it in my head, I know he didn't touch, and he had clear sailing down the sideline to a score. But he wasn't scoring once I blew the whistle. We set up for their offense and as we did, the coach came over and courteously asked, "Was his knee down?" He knew and he wanted to know if I was going to tell him the truth or lie, which would have created a major rift for the rest of the game between him and me. I said, "I think I might have missed that, coach." He said thank you and walked away. In other situations, you might miss something, such as a hold or pass interference. Maybe you aren't sure, and you get "questioned" by the coach. The best you can do is say you'll watch it, or that you might have missed it and you'll watch.

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 9 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.

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 about 9 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 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 9 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?

Are refs given "scripts" for announcing calls to the crowd, or are you free to phrase a call however you wish?

Asked by Go Bolts! about 9 years ago

Short answer: no. Referees have to know the rules, the enforcement, and need to have the ability to speak clearly and extemporaneously. Every situation is a bit different so you can't have a script. The easy stuff is natural: "Holding, on the offense, number 75. Ten yard penalty, repeat second down". But you can get a bit involved, too. "We have multiple fouls on the receiving team on the return. Block in the back, number 29; that foul is declined. Holding, number 43. That foul is enforced at the spot of the foul. First down." You can't script all that. There are some things that supervisors want and don't want said in the announcements. For example, with the current concern about concussions, there are more fouls for helmet-to-helmet contact. But you shouldn't be hearing the phrase "helmet-to-helmet". The national college supervisor does want the term "targeting" used, as in the head, or the player, was targeted by the hit. But don't use helmet in the announcement. Noted NFL referee Jerry Markbreit tried to prepare for the unusual. In his book, he recounted how he would create crazy plays and their related fouls. He would then "announce" the foul, practicing announcing it while looking at himself in the mirror. As the story goes, one game he had a weird, wacky, and very convoluted foul. He gets on the mike and announces it clearly and concisely. He later gets a call from someone who says what a great job he did explaining the foul and its enforcement. They asked Markbreit how he could explain that play so well and on TV no less. His answer: "I practiced it".

The NFL refs' salaries are a rounding error compared to those of the athletes and the league's other operating costs. Why was the NFL so stubborn on this issue when it barely makes a dent in their bottom line?

Asked by Confused COO about 9 years ago

This was, as I understand it, a simple management versus union matter. I heard, as I'm sure you did, that it would cost each team about $100,000 to settle it. The union wanted protections and the NFL wanted to make some significant changes in long term costs and control of the process of putting officials on the field. Roger Goodell set out an open letter to season ticket holders in which he wrote: "While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms. For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games." The second part is important in that it lets the NFL add officiating crews so that "underperforming" officials can be replaced during the season. The union counters that there are crews not working some weeks now, and those officials can be used to cover such situations. Bottom line, in my view, is that this was a control issue for the NFL; they didn't want to lose any.

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

Asked by JSB about 9 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.