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 October 13, 2017

Best Rated

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 about 5 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.

Do players ever accuse you or your colleagues of being racist when a call doesn't go their way?

Asked by McD12 about 5 years ago

Football is an emotional game, and things get said in the heat of the moment. Interestingly, and I would add fortunately and happily, such situations are very rare. Will kids think that, based on their own histories and backgrounds? Maybe. But coaches can stop that sort of thing, and we, as officials, can diffuse it, too. How we interact with the players can let them know that such comments are a) inappropriate and b) a bit misguided. There are far more minorities - and women! - in officiating across the board, including football. The NFL had a woman as a replacement and I am aware of another who is in line for a spot down the road.

Do refs ever have off-the-field friendships/relationships with coaches? Or is that an absolute no-no?

Asked by Dr. G. about 5 years ago

As with any occupation, you get to know people, and you might actually be friends outside of work. That being said, I'd say it is a bit harder to do, and probably less likely, on the college and professional level. When I started doing high school officiating, I was also in education. I knew coaches from teaching and even coaching other sports (as I did), and you tended to work in the same area so you saw them more frequently. On the college level, and certainly in the NFL, you travel a lot to get to your games, and coaches change jobs moving to other areas. It is far less likely that you would be socializing with a coach.

If it were up to you, would you put an end to endzone celebrations, or do you think this is something the NFL should be more lenient about?

Asked by Sticky Ickey about 5 years ago

Guess I'm old school. I'm a big believer in the axiom, "Act like you've been there before". Everyone is trying to get on Sports Center.

It is a bit silly. Personally, yes, cut the nonsense. I don't think it takes away from the college game to have some "youthful exuberance" but eliminate celebrations that draw attention to you. Why have all the carrying on as the pros do now? The college rule changed so that any sort of unsportsmanlike act (high-stepping into the end zone, for example) causes the foul to be live, meaning no score and the foul is enforced from the spot - maybe the 5 or 10 yard line. That might stop some fools from spiking the ball on the 5 yard line by mistake. Cutting back on celebrations also might stop guys from trying to dunk over the cross bar and breaking their wrist, or landing funny, breaking an ankle. I'm waiting for someone to do a back flip and break his leg on the landing. Think that will get a coach's attention?

Do female football refs have a markedly harder time earning the respect of male refs and players, or are we past that point?

Asked by Kirbo82 about 5 years ago

That's a great question with answers on a lot of levels. I have worked with a female official on the high school level. She was knowledgeable and she hustled. You can't ask for much more than that. One of the issues that creeps into the conversation, though, is a person's knowledge level and their "feel" for the game. If you never played it, can you understand it? The answer is, of course, yes; you just have to work harder at it. I know a male official who said he was a better lacrosse official because he never played the game; he had to study and think more. He couldn't assume he knew the game "because he played it" as he did in football. I believe women are in the same situation. Today, there is more equity and both players and coaches, being younger, have different, more open views. That doesn't mean they don't have their issues with female football officials. But like anything else, you earn your stripes. If you can't cut it, being a woman isn't going to get you very far. And I feel women, in a "man's world", just like men working in a predominantly female area (e.g. field hockey), have to understand the game better and get inside the players' heads to figure out how they think. An example: as an official, I've patted a player on the back saying, 'good play' or 'way to stay off the pile'. And it's been done to me (believe it or not). Players have said 'good call' and patted me. Well, a story was passed on to me about a female official who flagged a player for unsportsmanlike behavior. When the referee (white hat) asked for details, she said that the player patted her on the butt -- and told her good call. As it was told to me, the referee refused to enforce the penalty. To me, that was a mistake on her part, misjudging or being overly sensitive to a player's actions. Was it disrespect to her by the ref or was she trying too hard to get control? You earn respect, and I think most players, coaches, and other officials will give a female official the opportunity to make it. After that, it's up to her.

If a QB throws the ball out of bounds "throwing the ball away" from their own endzone, is that intentional grounding (where a safety would be awarded to the other team) or just an incomplete pass?

Asked by George A. almost 5 years ago

This question appeared back in November but, unfortunately, I didn't get notified that it was here. I'm seeing it now the day before the Super Bowl. Can it be intentional grounding? Yes, and if it is then it is a safety (it's a "spot foul", meaning it is marked off from the spot of the infraction). But just as on any other part of the field, the QB can throw it away under certain circumstances (e.g. out of the pocket) and it goes as in incomplete pass.

Do you think someone who's never really played organized football (beyond Pop Warner leagues) can still be a good ref at the college or pro level, assuming he knows the rulebook backward and forward?

Asked by aspiring zebra about 5 years ago

I think the answer is yes, with this caveat: You really need to work at it. That may seem obvious, but having played a sport, you have a "feel" for how it works and flows. Knowing the rules, mechanics, and philosophies is an absolute, whether you played the game or not. Applying them, interpreting them, that's where you need to work. It's like the law: there is the letter of the law (what the legislature created) and there is the spirit of the law (how it is interpreted and applied by the police and the courts). I believe you would need to be a true student of the game in order to do the job well, and that would take some time. In an earlier post, I noted that I knew an official who does both football and lacrosse. He felt he was a better lacrosse official because he didn't play the game. The reason: he had to work at it more.