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

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

Asked by Wanna be zebra over 10 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?

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

Asked by JSB over 10 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 over 10 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.

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 over 10 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?

What changes would you make to NFL instant replay if you had free reign?

Asked by DreamyHochuli over 10 years ago

It seems that every time you have a controversial call, you learn some other wrinkle about instant replay (they can't review this or that). I've never worked with instant replay, although I know a lot of officials who like it because they know the call will be corrected. Odd, you say, that they are okay with that? Bottom line is, officials want the call to be right, so they know that if a call is tenuous, it will be corrected. What would I want changed? I'm really not sure. I think a lot is going right, recent activity not withstanding. Sometimes I think they've gone too far with things like catches (having to maintain possession throughout the entire action - the only way you could possibly see it is with super-slow motion replay - takes away the human element). I'm probably not giving you anything too juicy here, but if I think of something, I'll add it -- if the NFL doesn't do it first!

How many bad calls does it take before a college or pro ref gets fired?

Asked by Finding Dykstra over 10 years ago

One of the issues in the NFL lockout involved adding crews. The reason was that the commissioner wanted to be able to have the extra bodies to replace "under-performing" officials during the season. The number of "bad calls" isn't a black-and-white matter; it's a lot more complex than that. Officials at the higher levels are judged on a range of actions including correct calls, correct judgements, incorrect judgements, incorrect calls. It also takes into account working with the crew, communicating with coaches, and test scores, among other things. I don't believe a supervisor has a set number in mind when he critiques an official. So there isn't a number of "bad calls" that decides an official's fate.

Do you ever experience any significant ref-on-ref friction? Like if you and another ref just have very different outlooks on what constitutes fairness etc?

Asked by Colin over 10 years ago

While for most of this is an avocation, it is no different than any other job. You are going to have "professional differences". Your example of "fairness" might not be the right example, but there will be officials who have different views of holding or pass interference. Some sideline officials will give a coach a bit more leeway in comments or "dialogue" about a call than others. If you are on a crew, you try to be as consistent as you can, That's why, on the college level, we get there three or more hours before a game so we can review the little things that make the game run well. If there are serious issues - and I'm probably talking personality more than actual officiating - it needs to be addressed (the referee - the white hat - needs to intervene) and that might mean moving someone off the crew.