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 August 05, 2017

Best Rated

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! almost 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".

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 almost 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?

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 almost 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.

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

Asked by JSB almost 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.

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

Asked by 94949494 almost 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 almost 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.

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

Asked by DreamyHochuli almost 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!