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!

SubscribeGet emails when new questions are answered. Ask Me Anything!Show Bio +

Share:

Ask me anything!

Submit Your Question

273 Questions

Share:

Last Answer on August 05, 2017

Best Rated

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 almost 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?

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 almost 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.

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 almost 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.

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 almost 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.

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

Asked by howard almost 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.

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 almost 5 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.

How in-shape do you have to be to ref football effectively, and what's your regimen?

Asked by Wanna be zebra almost 5 years ago

Once upon a time, in the world of football officials, the umpire (the one right behind the defensive line) used to be referred to as being in the "rocking chair". Just like an old man, he could sit back a rock on the front porch. He was often the heaviest and slowest on the field. Not any more. The game, even on the high school level, is much faster and the players more athletic. The spread offense and no huddle teams are across the board. While you don't have to be ready to run a marathon, you'd better be able to move quickly and make judgements on the fly. An interception at the 1, run back 99 yards? You better be at the goal line pretty much with that defender, to call the TD! I don't know of any physical testing at the high school level, but just about all college conferences require officials to have pre-season physicals and to undergo physical testing of some sort. Being able to run (jog) at least a half mile and to do interval sprints is pretty common. Everyone is different as far as training. If you don't do a winter sport, where you would be staying in shape, I usually get out of hibernation in March or April. That coincides with the start of our local study groups on the new rules (still think it's a 3 or 4 month job?). You hit the treadmill, you stretch, you do sprints. I try to get to the gym 2-3 times per week from the start to about June 1. Then I start the outdoor segment (warmer weather, conditions similar to what you'll get in the early part of the season). By the way, the weekly study groups have been going on at least into May, and once we get final interpretations on the new rules, those sessions are more important. The conferences' pre-season clinics, often two day affairs, are in early August, so you're trying to peak with your training with those dates in mind. You continue with the running and stretching; I'm doing at least 3 times per week. And after the clinic, where we get rules tests as well as the physical testing, I'm still running twice a week and at the gym with strength and stretching another two. And I think my workout is light compared to some others. During the season I cut back. A three hour college game on a Saturday (often after a two-plus hour high school game on Friday night) is a pretty good workout. Usually it's stretching and some strength training during the week. Does that help?