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 December 11, 2017

Best Rated

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

Asked by Wanna be zebra about 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?

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 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.

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 5 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".

How do I get into officiating? I love baseball, but realistically I’m never going to play in the majors, but being an umpire is like my dream job.

Asked by aaron5 about 5 years ago

A couple of thoughts. First, I believe that most officials start out in officiating because they love the sport. You're on the right track. As for how to get started, often local officiating organizations put ads or list meetings in the sports section or in public notices in the paper. Another way is to contact your state's sports governing body to get the name/address/phone of the secretary of the officials group. Contact them for an application or to find out about the process. If you happen to be in season, go to a local high school game and talk to the umpires. That, for the record, is how I got into football officiating.

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

Asked by DreamyHochuli about 5 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!

Do players or coaches physically threaten you? Have you ever actually been worried about them following through?

Asked by 94949494 about 5 years ago

The simple answer is no. I think I can honestly say that I have never been or felt threatened on the field. There was a college coach who once violated the "unwritten" rules and confronted us after the game in the locker room. I guess he figured it was our fault that his team blew a two touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. In that situation, we maintained our calm as best we could, left the campus quickly, and contacted our supervisor. That, however, was a single occurrence and I never experienced anything like that again. There has been only one time in my career where I received a police escort off the field. It was a high school game and there were back-to-back defensive pass interference calls against the home team. It allowed the visitors to kick the game winning field goal with the clock expiring. We got off the field without incident. And the calling official on those fouls stood by them. If the foul is there, you make the call and throw the flag. For the record, in New Jersey assaulting an official (and I believe that would include making threats of harm) is a crime.

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

Asked by Finding Dykstra about 5 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.