Feature – I’m Working With Who?

By The Referee Editors

Officiating is never boring, especially when it comes to those we officiate with. Good officials can adjust to their partners … no matter who they are.


Partners and crewmates come in all different shapes, sizes and personalities. There are a lot of good ones out there, but then there are others who will try your patience and test your ability to officiate nice, because their “offenses” are pretty bad. You probably have or will run across all of them during your career. … Hopefully it’s not because you’re seeing one in the mirror.

In life and officiating, you can’t always choose who you work with. So you have to deal with it. Since we’ve run across our share of unique officials working games in various sports, we’ll pass along some sure-fire counterattack plans you can apply if Grouchy Greg or Clyde the Clown walks into your locker room before a game.

Dominator Dan

Dominator-Dan--This guy is part control freak, part loudmouth and part overconfident. He dominates the pregame with partners, dominates in the pregame meeting with coaches and, of course, makes every effort to insert himself and dominate in the game.

If there is a problem in the game, even if Dan is remotely a part of the problem, he will “come to the rescue” whether welcomed or not and, in his eyes, save the day. Dan’s listening, but he really isn’t. He’ll do it his way always.


Do what you can to get a few words in during your pregame. Even if Dan doesn’t end up really listening, it’s important to at least try to get through to him. Conduct yourself in a professional manner, even if Dan doesn’t get the concept. It’s OK to let him have control, as long as he isn’t doing anything wrong. If he does and the rules permit a correction, it’s your responsibility to step up and play superhero, whether Dan likes to share the spotlight or not.

Techie Ted

Techie-TedHe is an enthusiast who is highly proficient about the technical field and how it relates to officiating. Ted’s smart phone has all the officiating information he needs to receive assignments, view video, take tests, study and communicate with other officials and assigners. That is all great. The problem is he is on his device all the time, checking email, texting and searching the Internet. He says he’s listening during the pregame and postgame, but it’s hard to tell because the latest text message from a friend or family members has his attention as well.


A partner with the latest in officiating technology is a positive. Use that technology as part of your pregame, showing video or utilizing a pregame board. If you’re not using technology in your pregame, make the extra effort to engage Ted more in the discussion. It doesn’t hurt to flat out ask him to put the device away. There may be some withdrawal shaking at first, but eventually Ted will be OK, and your prep for the game will be a lot better.


Give-Me-My-Paycheck Peter

Give-Me-My-Paycheck-PeterPay me now or pay me now, preferably in cash. In Peter’s world, there really is no good reason why a school or organization doesn’t show him the money the moment he pulls into the parking lot. And if the game administrator doesn’t have a check ready and waiting, Peter will politely joke (but not really) how it sure would be nice to have received a check on game day, then ask when he can expect to receive the check.

For Peter, getting his hands on the check is seemingly more important than the game itself. His passion for collecting checks and cash on game days often supersedes his ambition to officiate.


There is nothing wrong with officiating to earn money, but a passion for the game and exhibiting professionalism for those surrounding the game are also important. Asking Peter why he started officiating might help to bring him back to the love of the game that probably got him into the avocation to start with.

Sal the Slob

Sal-the-SlobYou walk into the locker room with your neatly packed roller bag. You shined your shoes twice last night. Your pants are pressed. You even took the time to iron a crease into the sleeve of your striped shirt. You’ve heard it before — perception is reality. You’re controlling the things you can control; you’re really looking the part! As you begin to unfold your meticulous uniform, your partner barrels through the door in one big dust cloud.

“Hey there, name’s Sal!” bellows your partner as he extends his mustard stained hand. Sal looks frazzled at best. His hair is a mess, his dirty shirt is partly tucked in and it’s obvious his holey and untied shoes have seen one too many Guns N’ Roses concerts. Absolutely zero attention has been paid to his unkempt appearance and it quickly becomes evident that he does not care one bit. He unzips his bag and pulls out a balled-up shirt that looks like it hasn’t been washed since opening day, three years ago.


We might be embarrassed working with Sal, or be embarrassed for him. Part of being a (successful) sports official means taking pride in one’s appearance. Being a good partner might mean casually speaking up in the locker room before the game. “You know Sal, I’ve learned that my shirt best stays tucked in when I tuck it in my tights.” Unfortunately, having to take the floor with Sal can give a negative first impression of the entire crew. Expect it, and plan to work that much harder to gain respect.


Grouchy Greg

Grouchy-Greg“Can you believe they gave him the championship game this year!? I can’t believe it, it’s all soooo political! I guess I gotta kiss more butt.”

Ahh, the always-exasperated Greg has entered the building. Some people see the glass as half-full, some see it as half-empty; Greg sees the glass as all-angry. The sun may be shining outside, but it is always miserable in Greg’s world. “I don’t know about you but I can’t stand this coach, he’s a real piece of work.” Greg’s partners often aren’t exempt from his wrath either. “Why do you guys go to those clinics anyway, you don’t learn a darn thing from those knuckleheads!”

From the weather being too cold, to the game check not sitting next to the water bottle and towel as you enter the locker room, Greg will always have that negative attitude: “All right, let’s get out there and get this thing over with.” For everything wrong in Greg’s world, someone else is always to blame. Heaven forbid it is ever his own fault.


Kill him with kindness. For every angry and negative comment, reply with something positive. Don’t stoop to Greg’s level; that just gives him more ammunition. Nothing can wear you out quicker than the guy who is negative 24/7. Our officiating careers (and life in general) are too short to be mad all the time. Ask Greg why he officiates? If everything is so awful and bad and wrong, ask him why he continues to do it if it makes him so miserable? Maybe you’ll finally hear something positive come out of his mouth.

Just-in-Time Terry

Just-in-Time-TerryEverything is last-minute for Terry. She’s the one who shows up 15 minutes prior to a game, even though she isn’t coming from work. Because you don’t want to walk on the field without her, you are taking the field late, making coaches wonder if you are even there.

If there’s paperwork to be filed, Terry’s waiting to the last minute as well. And then when her email system is down or she can’t find a fax machine or scanner that works, it’s your fault that her form isn’t in. And you are expected to understand that the world has to work on Terry’s time — Terry is a very important and very busy person and without her, things just wouldn’t be as good.


As long as everyone continues to cater to Terry, then Terry will never change. Deadlines must be enforced. Late arrivals must be pointed out to assigners. And even most drastically, go to the field at the right time, and let Terry be late. You can’t let Terry drag you down.

The first time Terry doesn’t get a playoff game because she inadvertently didn’t get the test taken on time, she’ll learn the importance of meeting the deadline. And when enough partners call the assigner or report back on an evaluation that she was late to the site and isn’t doing a proper pregame, it will start to hurt her schedule.

Everyone runs late every once in a while. But if Terry’s always behind and always pushing things to the very last minute, it’s going to look very bad for her eventually. Be proactive and don’t let Terry dictate your schedule or the way you do things.

Captain Obvious Orv

Captain-Obvious-OrvOrv oversells everything and must be seen doing it. The over-the-shoulder out pump when the play wasn’t close. The dramatic long whistle followed by the over-exuberant touchdown signal when everyone knows it was a score. Or the screaming of “FOUL BALL!” when it flies quickly over the fence behind the plate and into the parking lot.

Orv makes it a point of explaining even the most basic calls to players, coaches and even fans. He wants to make sure everyone knows that he knows what he knows and that he saw what he saw. Of course, then when Orv has to really sell a call, his credibility is in question because he can’t do anything more dramatic than he did for the super obvious calls.


Find someone that Orv looks up to and get that person to mentor Orv. Have Orv watch how officials at the higher levels and respected officials at his level use other techniques to command a game. Orv is probably a pretty good official who just hasn’t been shown or doesn’t realize the harm he is doing to himself by overselling the obvious calls.

Big-timer Bob

Big-Timer-BobBob isn’t shy about relating his experiences to people, selling himself based on the levels he’s worked, not his actual ability. In a meeting of high school officials, he’s not afraid to tell people, “This is how I do it when I work a college game.” Or, “This is how we did it when I worked with that professional official.”

Bob is also known to cite the experiences of his friends. “My buddy Larry told me that his crew in the college conference does it this way.”

Bob thinks the levels he’s worked means that he should get automatic respect at the lower levels and that his ways are always the best.


Put Bob in his place. Respectfully stand up to him and let him know that what is important is how we do it at our level and the proper rules, mechanics and philosophies for our level.

If your association has too many Bobs, it can fracture the association. People will want to do it Bob’s way, or worse yet, will want to adopt their own “higher level” mechanics. Soon, there will be no consistency in the way games in your association are called.

Long-for-the-Good-Ol’-Days Larry

Long-for-the-Good-Ol-Days-LarryRemember when gas was 50 cents a gallon? When a portable communication device was two tin cans and a length of string? When the games lasted only an hour and 15 minutes and the coaches never complained about the calls?

Larry does, and he reminds you over and over. And over.

He not only regales you with tales of how games used to be officiated, he actually employs those outdated mechanics and philosophies. Rulebooks? He don’t need no stinkin’ rulebooks! One of his favorite questions is, “When did they change that rule?”


For heaven’s sake, don’t enable Larry by asking him to elaborate on any of his stories. If he’s holding court before you hit the court, try to bring him back to the here and now by getting him involved in the pregame discussion. If it’s halftime or after the game, direct the conversation to situations that occurred today.


Clyde the Clown

Clyde-the-ClownAs you watch both teams warm up, you can’t help but notice your partner Clyde down by the baseline. What the heck is he doing? Clyde is going through an elaborate (and very attention seeking) stretching routine. All of his jumps, twists and turns would make any yoga instructor proud. You shake your head as Clyde yuks it up with players and fans alike. Once the game starts, Clyde’s act doesn’t stop. His foul calls are theatrical and any time he blows his whistle you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next. Give this guy a red nose and some oversized shoes and you’ve got a real-life clown on your hands.

Working with Clyde can start out as comical and lighthearted, but it can quickly become too much. Clyde is often someone that’s been around awhile — and he has a reputation. Fans laugh at him, coaches tolerate him and partners shake their heads.   


When you work with Clyde, it’s best to stick to your game. Don’t change the way you officiate because you’re working with an amateur comedian. Go out and work hard like you always do. Clyde’s antics will eventually catch up with him. You should enjoy officiating, but don’t become a sideshow; just stay focused on the task at hand.

Invisible Ike

Invisible-IkeIke shows up for the game on time, looks the part of a solid official and says all the right things in the pregame. You have confidence going into a contest with him, but when it’s game time and the pressure is on, Ike is nowhere to be found. Where’s Ike?

When there is a crash and a call could go either way, but there should be something, Ike will often no-call it. When a coach is bashing you from the other side of the field or court right in front of Ike, you won’t be able to count on him for backing or for penalties. Ike likes to get through a game with as little controversy as possible by making as few decisions as possible. Ike follows the wrong thinking that “the best officiated games are the ones in which you don’t know the officials are there.”


Ike is a dangerous partner to deal with because he often won’t have your back. Plan on having to step up more during a game. You don’t want to overstep your coverage responsibilities, but at times, you may have to if it’s warranted. Encourage Ike to step up when it’s needed. Go over the importance of having a presence at halftime or after the game. The best officiating games are the ones that are actually officiated. Lead by example and call what needs to be called.


Wanna-Be Willy

Wanna-Be-WillyMany are called to officiating. Few are chosen for the upper levels. Willy isn’t one of them, but that doesn’t stop him from dressing or acting the part.

To Willy, the approved signals and mechanics aren’t nearly as good as the ones the pros or college officials use. So he goes off the book and does it like the “big boys” do. The manual says white or blue beanbags. But Willy sports the black version used by college officials because he wants to draw attention to himself. The state has a “clean shirt” policy. Willy wears numbers on his sleeve so people will think he’s taking a busman’s holiday from the semi-pro league to work the youth contest.


When Willy is on your crew, let him know in advance he needs to bring the proper uniform and equipment, and that his nonsense will not be tolerated. Bring some extra equipment in case he “forgets,” so the crew can go out looking proper.

Fake-Hustle Harry

Fake-Hustle-HarryMaybe instead of Harry, we should call him Hurry or Harried. That’s because this guy moves like Jell-O in an earthquake. Problem is, all that energy is expended whether or not he’s covering plays. Someone watching Harry gets exhausted as he sprints to his between-innings spot in the outfield after the third out is made, flies from the goalline to his position on a kickoff (never bothering to slow down or stop to clean up the sideline along the way) or imitates Usain Bolt while doing the dreaded (and incorrect) long switch.


Not every Harry understands subtlety, so you may have to (figuratively) hit them over the head when you explain that he is hustling at the wrong times. False hustle is like yelling: If you do it all the time, people won’t be able to tell when you mean it. Harry needs to understand that.

Lackadaisical Len

Lackadaisical-LenThis character is cool as a cucumber when the heat is on. Or off. Also during the pregame. In fact, sometimes you want to shake him to make sure he’s still awake. Nothing fazes Len. He’s happy to let his partner or crewmates handle anything that may come up during the game. He just wants his check and a quick finish so he can get on with his life.


The remedy would seem to be a swift kick in the slats, but even if it weren’t wrong, it wouldn’t help anyway. Asking Len questions or soliciting his advice will get him involved in the pregame. Engaging him in quick conversations (“How’s my strike zone?” “Did you get a look at the block in the back I called during that kickoff return?” “Is it time for me to give a red card to number 10 if she pops off again?”) when appropriate during breaks in the action may light his fire.

Cocky Carl

Cocky-CarlConfidence in your officiating abilities is important, but Carl goes beyond confidence. If he is your partner, expect to hear about a great call or two or three that he made in previous games. Expect to hear that the game ahead should be no problem. And with all that talking, expect that having a proper pregame may be difficult. If fact, Carl may not think it is necessary. Many games at the high school level may actually be beneath him. So going through the motions with little focus or energy is something you will regularly see.

You might be a decent official, but Carl will likely know more than you and you can expect to hear his expertise offered in full following the game. There is no need to repay the critique, though. Carl won’t think it’s necessary.


Fight cockiness with humbleness and patience. There are some who can and should put Carl in his place (supervisors, coordinators, etc.), but you don’t need to be one of them. Try to do the right thing by pushing for a pregame and listening to Carl’s advice after the game. Present yourself in a friendly way to coaches and players, so the cockiness that Carl exudes is not reflective of the whole crew. Work hard no matter what the level or score, because Carl likely won’t.

Sam the Schmooze

Sam-the-SchmoozeCoaches, players, supervisors, officials, you name it, Sam will schmooze them. He knows the coaches’ names and nicknames, and probably even their kids’ names. Sam has the gift of gab and he’s not afraid to use it to further himself in a game or his career. Unfortunately the schmoozing doesn’t endear Sam to his fellow officials, because they can see right through it. By chatting up the coaches or complimenting the players after good plays, Sam often presents the crew in a bad light. While he’s an equal-opportunity schmoozer, a particular team often doesn’t see it that way and the objectivity of the officials can be called into question.


Sam is mostly harmless. If you’re his partner or crewmate, you just need to keep an eye on him and stress the importance of not talking to players and coaches too much during a contest. Sam should have a short leash. If you’re the one he’s complimenting, understand the source and don’t let your head get too big.

Gotta-Go Gabby

Gotta-Go-GabbyThere are very few postgame meetings that Gabby can’t weasel her way out of. She can’t stick around, because she has to go to a wedding or a funeral or her husband’s birthday dinner, etc. … You get the idea. Gabby likes officiating games, she likes working with the kids, exercising and getting her paychecks, but getting better is not all that important to her and it shows.


If Gabby is on your regular crew, make the postgame meetings mandatory. No excuses. If you just happen to have Gabby as your partner once in a while, it might be tough to counter the excuses. The best you may be able to do is try to talk her into at least a short postgame. Whether your partner stays or not, you should at least mentally review your game or watch video later, if available. Make sure improvement is important to you.

Maybe some of your partners look pretty good right now. … Or maybe not. At least you’re armed with some sure-fire ways to handle the bad ones.

Referee Magazine(This feature was published in the 8/13 issue of Referee Magazine.)

You Are There – Bobby Knight Throws A Chair

To the Indiana faithful, he’s a hero. To millions of college basketball fans, he’s either loved or hated for his incredible success and his fiery temperament. To most officials, he’s just that jerk who threw a chair.

By Bob Fulton


Bobby Knight Throws A Chair – You Are There – Referee Magazine – February 2007


Bobby Knight’s molten rage briefly bubbled beneath the surface until, likeVesuvius, he erupted in a pyrotechnic fury.

The Indiana basketball coach blew his top on Feb. 23, 1985, some 19centuries after the mountain did.

The Hoosiers and Purdue were five minutes into a Big 10 Conference showdown when the fiery “General” famed for throwing tantrums made national headlines by throwing a chair. It clattered across the floor at Assembly Hall, an indelible image that Phil Bova, who officiated the game, replays in his head every time he returns to Bloomington.

“When I walk on that floor,” Bova said, “it’s kind of like a flashback thing.”

Knight exploded after the Hoosiers were called for their third foul in a span of 59 seconds. He uttered an obscenity, resulting in the first of three successive technicals, then picked up a red plastic chair with both hands and flung it onto the court. Jaws dropped throughout Assembly Hall. “It caught everybody by surprise,” said Bova, one of three officials who simultaneously tossed Knight for his toss. “The chair went across the floor almost into the handicapped section. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it came awful darn close. Awful darn close.”Bova and his fellow officials — Fred Jaspers, now deceased, and London Bradley, who declined comment for this story —struggled to maintain order in the highly charged atmosphere of Assembly Hall. They were forced to contend with Knight’s wrath and his refusal to leave the premises; a din so deafening they had to shout to make themselves heard while huddled at the scorer’s table; and a shower of coins pelting the floor, courtesy of irate fans.

The sequence that triggered Knight’s legendary tirade began when Indiana’s Steve Alford was whistled for a foul with 4:01 elapsed. Less than a minute passed before teammate Marty Simmons was called for a foul during a scramble for a loose ball —a play, Knight insisted, that should have resulted in a jump ball. When Daryl Thomas was charged with a foul on the ensuing inbounds pass, Knight went off like a Fourth of July firecracker. An audible obscenity drew a “T” from Jaspers.

Purdue’s Steve Reid had just arrived at the line to shoot the free throws when he caught something out of the corner of his eye as it whizzed by.

“I couldn’t believe it was a chair,” Reid said. “I’ve never seen anything like that happen. I was shocked.”

So were the officials. While familiar with Knight’s short fuse and colorful vocabulary, they never expected him to rearrange the furniture. The act seemed beyond the pale even for the temperamental Knight.

“You’ll see guys taking a towel or aj acket and throwing it up in the air, or maybe kicking a bench,” said Bova, a vocational director at Buckeye High School in Medina, Ohio, who is wrapping up his 30th season as a Big 10official and his 38th season overall in the collegiate ranks. “But seeing a chair come out, that was unique. I guess it was his way of making a statement, of showing his disgust.”

All three officials immediately gave the “T” sign and headed toward the scorer’s table, where Knight continued to rant.

“He was pretty wound up, to say the least,” Bova said. “We expressed to him that he was ejected for that technical foul. Then, during our conversation, he used some language that obviously you can’t print. So that was the third technical.”

But Knight stubbornly refused to depart as requested. The crowd of 17,279, already loud and boisterous, turned more raucous as the impasse dragged on.

“It being a rivalry, it was an intense game anyway,” Bova said. “And when the home team’s head coach gets thrown out, that kind of escalates things. Then, when he didn’t leave, that brought it to another level. I remember there was a crescendo of chants: ‘Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.’“

It seemed like an eternity, but it took us probably seven to 10 minutes to get him out of there. The Indiana athletic director, Ralph Floyd, came down onto the floor and was very concerned about what happened. He was wondering why we ejected Bob Knight. I said, ‘Mr. Floyd, you can’t toss a chair across the floor. That’s an automatic ejection.’ ”

By then the rain of coins had commenced. One reportedly struck the wife of Purdue Coach Gene Keady in the eye.

“There were nickels and dimes and quarters thrown onto the court,” Bova said. “I tell people that by the time we got Knight off the floor I had collected about $2.50.”

The game resumed after Knight exited to a standing ovation from the Indiana fans. The Hoosiers, who trailed 11-6 when play was interrupted, battled back to briefly take the lead late in the first half. But Purdue regained the advantage before the break and pulled away in the second half for a 72-63 victory.

“Thank goodness we were able to finish the game,” Bova said. “When the antics took place on the sidelines and Mr. Floyd came down, we had to explain to him that, hey, this was not acceptable. We need to get this game moving before things escalate. We had to make it very clear that if his coach didn’t leave, then the game would be forfeited.”

A contrite Knight later apologized for pitching a fit — and a chair.

“I do not think that my actions in the Purdue game were in any way necessary or appropriate. No one realizes that more than I do,” said Knight, who drew a one-game suspension from the Big 10 for his sideline histrionics. “I think sometimes you get in a situation where you obviously let some frustrations go out, and maybe you shouldn’t have.”

Knight has since moved on to Texas Tech and at the time of this writing was on the verge of becoming the winningest coach in Division I history. And Bova? He’s gained a place in college basketball history, too, as one of three officials who simultaneously tossed a coach for tossing a chair.

Bova encounters constant reminders of the incident, even when he’s not working a game at Assembly Hall. “People still talk about it all the time,” Bova said. “I’ve given talks at service clubs in the area and at officials gatherings and that game inevitably will come up. It was something unique to be part of.”

Bob Fulton is a freelance writer and author of the book The Summer Olympics: A Treasury of Legend and Lore. He resides in Indiana, Pa.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 02/07 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Feature – Unwind Then Rewind

By Tom Schreck

When the final whistle or buzzer sounds or the last out is recorded, you’re not done yet. Here are five postgame discussion strategies to follow.


It’s been a long day. There was the travel to the event, the pregame meeting, a long grueling contest, some testy coaches, an opinionated crowd and some challenging rulebook interpretations. Now the game is over and you’re sweaty and hungry and all you can think of is the condensation running down the side of a cold refreshment.

Not so fast.

If your focus is on slipping out of the locker room door before a postgame debriefing critique, you’re robbing yourself and interfering with a chance to improve your career.

“I spend a lot of my time mentoring new referees,” Eric Proctor said. Proctor is an NCAA Division I soccer official and MLS official.

“The postgame critique is a great learning tool. The best referees are the ones who are open to what you have to say and those that are willing to learn new things,” he said.

Organizing and participating in an effective postgame critique doesn’t just happen. Like all things in officiating, they take knowledge, preparation, sensitivity and, perhaps most importantly, good social skills. Fall short on any of those components and you can count on a meeting that not only is unproductive but may even leave the officials involved less prepared and more confused the next time they head out on an assignment.

Whether you’re the head official, an evaluator or a referee or umpire who worked the game, you can make the most out of a critique by keeping a few important things in mind.

1Know What to Cover

It may seem like stating the obvious, but knowing what you’re going to talk about after the game when you address the team is crucial. It isn’t the time to work off the cuff. Make sure you have something relevant to say and that you can convey it in a way that the team will understand.

“As a crew chief you have to know what you want to say and have a strategy for drawing each official out. You always have to have a plan for what you’re going to talk about,” said Barb Smith, an NCAA Division I women’s basketball official.

For many officials who conduct postgame critiques having a routine assures them that they cover the things that are important to each game. Having a structure with some flexibility built in is one of the keys to making it work. It’s a mistake to count on total recall after working, particularly a stressful game and in a situation where everyone involved is exhausted. Instead, rely on your structure to make sure that you cover everything that needs to be addressed.

“When it’s time for our postgame we look at the things that were most important,” Proctor said. “We examine any major decisions the team made that affected the game. We talk about how we communicated and ways we could’ve done it better. We talk about all red cards or anything that involves a misconduct and why the red cards were issued. We evaluate any critical match incidents and we take a good look at any game- winning goal controversies.”

By covering the same points at the end of the game with room to be flexible you can make sure that each member of the team can learn and improve their game. Taking the time to plan your meeting in advance will pay dividends and make it more productive for everyone involved.

2Prepare Your Message

You may have more knowledge than any other official on the planet but if you can’t express it in a way that others can hear it, understand it and receive it, all your knowledge may be for naught. First of all, it is important to realize that this isn’t the time to go over every tick of the clock and every play of the game. There’s simply no way you can do it and even if you did, it wouldn’t be digested. If your drive is to be comprehensive, you may need to check your own motivation and neediness and question what you’re trying to fulfill by keeping everyone for an hour after the game.

The best crew chiefs and supervisors focus on a few pointed and important items to cover at the end of the game.

“I don’t think they have to be long but they do have to be focused,” Smith said. “I like to start out by saying something like, ‘Give me three to five minutes of your time. Let’s look at two or three things we did well and two or three things we didn’t do so well.’”

Don’t mistake Smith’s approach for giving the topic short shrift. She knows where she wants to go after the game and structures her meetings in such a way that the important messages are conveyed and, even more importantly, received.

“I always prepare how I’m going to address the crew and I have a strategy for how to draw them out so we can talk about the game. They aren’t allowed to get by on yes or no answers.”

Some situations call for more detail and more formal review. In those cases the meetings go on longer, not so everyone can hear themselves talk, but because there’s important material to cover. When you’re in the role of evaluating others you may feel the pressure to go deeper in detail than an average crew chief, but remember to be focused on what needs to be said and not just taking up time so that you can feel good about going on for the longest.

“When I evaluate a basketball game from the stands I take copious notes of what I see and I use a Dictaphone to make sure I get everything recorded that I want to address,” said George Drouches. He’s a Division III baseball national coordinator and a supervisor of men’s and women’s basketball for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Upper Midwest Athletic Association.

“I don’t rely on my memory nor do I want to improvise,” he added. “I want to be able to present my material clearly and be able to structure my points in an organized fashion.”

Drouches’ preparation means that when he enters a locker room, his words carry not only the weight of his title but they also instantly have credence because they are factually dead on. When an official knows an evaluator has prepared and studied the game, they pay attention to the feedback they receive.

Crew chiefs and officials can’t prepare quite as much as evaluators, but they can still have a sense for what should be covered and a strategy going in.

3Take a Positive Approach

If you’re leading the postgame meeting, your goal is to help everyone improve from analyzing the team’s performance. Undoubtedly, there were mistakes and those mistakes provide everyone with teachable moments. That is where your greatest opportunities lie, but the message has to be received for it to be worth anything. The messages must be delivered in a way that the team members can process them.

“I start out by asking the group what we did well,” Smith said. “I want them to tell me two or three positive things to get the meeting off on the right foot. It might be something as simple as dealing with an angry coach or that we rotated well.”

Unwind-Then-Rewind-SidebarThe practice of starting off with the positive sets a tone and lets the officials relax their defenses. It lets the participants know they aren’t getting ready for an inquisition where everything they did for the last three hours will be called into question. It also gives them a chance to feel good about themselves.

“All of it needs to be presented in a positive manner,” Drouches said. “You should not be negative and should never be demeaning. I try to employ some of the same strategies I used as a coach and present everything as a challenge to get better.”

That balance of presenting the positive along with the challenge to improve is the crucial focus point. There are always errors, even from the most experienced and skilled officials, and avoiding the discussion of those errors is a huge mistake. Even though some officials can be extremely sensitive, don’t make the mistake of not talking about what needs to be covered.

“I let them know during a critique that we’re here to get better not to feel better. I ask them about what calls they’d like to have back and we review the plays in question. It is kept positive but the mistakes need to be covered,” Drouches said.

It is not enough just to have postgame critiques so you can check it off your list as another completed task. Though they may need to be tactful, they still need to be meaningful, even if that means making some officials a little uncomfortable.

“I think the most useless meetings are the ones where everyone gets together and congratulates each other for being wonderful. Some officials don’t like to give anything up, but there’s always something, and not discussing things doesn’t help anyone,” Smith said.

4Exercise Sensitivity

Those meetings can be particularly anxiety-provoking for the young officials who are so eagerly trying to improve. They may not be overtly defensive but their drive to excel can actually get in their way and they may get crushed with criticism, constructive or otherwise. You may not be in there to make everyone feel good, but breaking down a sensitive official focused on self-improvement isn’t your goal, either. It takes some thought in how to approach officials with that mind-set.

“I think you start out by being open,” Proctor said. “I try to draw a young official out and ask them how they thought they did. Then I move on to what they think they could improve on. I use what they bring up as a lead-in to a discussion.”

For Proctor it’s about getting to the important points so someone can improve and not about showing who is boss and establishing a power structure. The goal isn’t about ego; it is about helping someone become the best official he or she can be.

“I try to stay away from a lot of ‘shoulds’ because it doesn’t help. Instead I think the critiques need to be an exchange of ideas,” he said.

5Know Your Audience

Officiating is one part knowing and executing rules and another part understanding people. Our people skills help us handle the irate coach, the frustrated players and the angry crowd, but they are equally or more important when it comes to working within the officiating team. When you’re leading a team, just like in any other leadership position, you need to be part boss, counselor and friend to those who you are charged with leading.

Perhaps the most challenging officials encountered are the ones who believe they haven’t made any mistakes during a game and who resist any criticism at all. They may be good officials, but with that attitude they will never meet their full potential.

“The most difficult personal attitude without question is the one held by the officials who think they know it all, that they are already great and the only thing they’re really interested in hearing is that they are great,” Proctor said. “It’s a real problem because I know I improved by listening to senior mentors in difficult situations. You have to realize you’re never going to experience everything.”

You may want to blast an arrogant official across the room, but resist the urge to serve up some humble pie. Their arrogance is often a cover for insecurity. Using a little psychology may be the best move and a way into someone who seems a bit closed off to feedback.

“I use open-ended questions to get people discussing things even if they don’t want to. It doesn’t have to be harsh, and by using open-ended questions you can draw someone out who may be resistant,” Smith said.

Open-ended questions are inquiries that require a full answer and are impossible to answer with one word.

Try structuring a question like, “Could you tell me what we could’ve done better in that situation?” Rather than, “Did we do anything wrong in this situation?” or even “Is there anything we could’ve done better in that situation?”

The open-ended questions begin a dialogue in a non-threatening manner. Starting a sentence off with “Could” will elicit the least defensive responses. Be careful when using questions that start with “Why” because they are the questions most likely to be perceived as accusations.

Even with your best communication skills in place you may have to address some officials directly on their attitude and response to criticism. It’s not about showing who is the boss or looking for a fight, but it is about doing your job as a leader. Confrontation can be a tough but necessary part of the job.

“I have to let them know this is not a debate. When you start getting into debating it stops being about getting better and becomes more about feeling better and as I said that’s not why we’re here,” Drouches said. “The officials who are going to be the best are the good listeners. Let’s face it, this isn’t easy … so it is all about improving.”


If you’re a part of a postgame critique, it is important to not only soak up the feedback from more experienced officials, it’s also important to demonstrate that you bring an open attitude and that you want to improve. Even if you’ve had an awful game, the postgame meeting is a chance to impress.

“Situations reveal character,” Drouches said. “The officials who really take advice to heart are the ones who will get better. I make sure the next time I see an official I point out their improvements they’ve made since the critique and it means a lot to them.”

Don’t forget how you are perceived when you’re a leader. The group will take its cue from not only what you say, but how you say it and how you behave. Treat a postgame meeting like a presentation and be aware of the messages you are conveying with your words, your intonation and your body language.

“I’m very aware of my body language,” Smith said. “It depends on the locker room but if there’s a chair, I’ll sit down and lean forward and talk directly to the officials with good eye contact. I don’t like to do it standing or while I’m getting dressed. I make sure I’m not slouching. I look folks in the eye and I use a strong voice. I give it my full attention and keep it short.”

Smith’s postgame meeting may only run three to five minutes but she makes the most of the time and gets respect because she gives it by being serious, prepared and sensitive to her audience.

Tom Schreck is a writer and a professional boxing judge with the World Boxing Association and the New York State Athletic Commission from Albany, N.Y.

Referee Magazine(This feature was published in the 10/13 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Dale Scott Feature

The October 2014 issue of Referee featured MLB umpire Dale Scott. On December 2, 2014, Outsports.com also profiled Scott, which heavily referenced Referee’s October issue. Below is a link to the original Referee feature and a link to the current Outsports.com feature:

Download Sale Scott Feature from Referee Magazine (.PDF)

You Are There – Webber’s Timeout

You Are There - Webber's TimeoutThis article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Referee Magazine and is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, citations, mechanics and/or officiating philosophies found in this article may or may not be correct for the current year.


By Noah Liberman




The 1993 NCAA men’s basketball championship game was one of the most famous college hoops game ever. Why? Because the new guard — Michigan’s Fab Five, with their distinctive black shoes and Jordan-esque shaved heads and their unique combination of skill, athleticism and celebrity — were taking on the “old guard” — one of Dean Smith’s finest University of North Carolina (UNC) outfits, the epitome of skilled team-oriented basketball. It is remembered because it was decided in a way no one anticipated. It was decided when Michigan’s top star, Chris Webber, called a timeout his team didn’t have.

The April 5, 1993, game in the Superdome in New Orleans was a tight, well-played nail-biter, just as you would have expected. “Believe me, of all the games I’ve done, that was not a hard one, because it was so well-played, and you could let them play through a lot of contact without blowing the whistle,” said Tom Harrington, one of the officials who worked the memorable contest. Ed Hightower and Jim Stupin were the other officials for the game.

Michigan was leading, 67-63, with 4:32 remaining. UNC then went on a 9-0 run, capped with a dunk by seven-footer Eric Montross with only 58 seconds to play, putting the Tar Heels up, 72-67.

Michigan’s Ray Jackson hit a jumper, slicing the lead to 72-69. And then Michigan called a timeout — its last timeout of the game.

After the break, UNC’s Brian Reese turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. Michigan’s Jalen Rose missed a shot, but Webber was there to get the rebound and score on the follow-up. It was 72-71 with 36 seconds left.

Michigan then fouled Pat Sullivan. He made the first free throw but missed the second, giving UNC a 73-71 cushion. With the Wolverines trailing by two, Webber skied for the rebound on the missed UNC free throw with 19 seconds remaining. His eager teammates — all of them — scooted upcourt, leaving him momentarily alone. Flustered, Webber briefly signaled for a timeout, but Stupin, the referee trailing the play, didn’t see it.

Hightower explained none of the referees expected a timeout call, because they had already informed Michigan that it was out of timeouts.

Next, Webber started to make a pass to Jalen Rose, who had come back to help, but a Tar Heel blocked the path, and Webber took a step and possibly slid his pivot foot before clumsily starting to dribble upcourt. The UNC bench saw what looked like a travel, though, and erupted in protest. Harrington was already under the Michigan basket downcourt.

“You think that he’s going to pass it, and he doesn’t,” Harrington said. “You see the bench leap up, and you say, ‘Oh, God, what did I miss?’”

“I was across the court,” said Hightower, a 12-time Final Four official who worked the 2008 NCAA men’s basketball championship game. “You don’t say it’s not your call, because the rule of thumb is, anyone who sees it calls it. But I was not looking at the situation as I was coming down the court in the center. But you never pass the buck.”

Bewilderment was rampant at that point. The six-foot-nine Webber dribbled the full length of the court and got trapped in the corner near his bench. He then called the timeout. Harrington blew his whistle and actually started to award the timeout, then quickly switched to signal a technical.

“Exactly right — I forgot (that Michigan had no timeouts),” he admits. “Because first of all, it’s not really up to us to know. If the officials are aware of (timeout status), they will tell the coach. But it’s the players’ responsibility to remember.”

Webber’s timeout request brought up a gray area in adjudication that has been addressed by more recent rules changes. His infraction gave UNC two free throws and the ball. Today UNC would only get the two shots; Michigan would then regain possession where the infraction occurred.

The rule in place in 1993 made officials somewhat hesitant to call the foul. “Especially if you’re talking about calling it on a coach in a crucial time, you might just bite on the whistle knowing that two shots plus possession could be the end of the game,” Harrington said.

But call it Harrington did.

“Everyone was in shock,” Hightower said. “Certainly we were, because for a moment it runs through your head, ‘Do I need to adjudicate this?’ But we came together and we had to adjudicate the rule. It’s one we actually had discussed throughout the season. We were not to ignore the excessive timeout anymore, but to recognize the timeout (attempt) and call the technical. You wouldn’t ignore a legitimate timeout, so you don’t ignore this either.”

Harrington, now retired and living in his hometown of Greenwich, Conn., says he can count on one hand the times in his career — before and after the edict to get strict — he actually called the infraction.

Hank Nichols, then-NCAA supervisor of officials for men’s basketball, paid his customary visit to the crew in its locker room after the game. Harrington recalls him referencing the possible missed calls in the final seconds (Webber’s first timeout request and traveling) saying, ‘You guys did a great job, but like always, sometimes you have to be lucky, because if UNC had lost that game, they’d be talking about us.’”

UNC hit both free throws after the technical, and two more a few seconds later after a desperation Wolverine foul, and suddenly UNC was up by six with only eight seconds left, sealing the Tar Heels’ victory, 77-71.

Multiple attempts to reach Stupin were unsuccessful, but Harrington described the role luck plays in an official’s career. “You have to understand that luck will play a part,” he said, “because you know guys who have had something happen to them and you think, ‘That could have happened to me.’ That’s just the nature of the beast, and you have to know it could happen.”

Noah Liberman is a sportswriter from Chicago.


Photo Caption: As the UNC defense moves in to trap Webber, he pauses for a moment and then inexplicably brings his hands together to form a “T” — indicating timeout. Official Tom Harrington granted the timeout, which cost Michigan a technical foul for an excessive timeout and all but decided the game.


Copyright© Referee Enterprises, Inc.
This article is copyrighted by Referee Enterprises, Inc. (REI), and may not be republished in whole or in part online, in print or in any capacity without expressed written permission from REI. It is available online via REI’s archive and/or its MyReferee web portal as an educational tool for individuals.

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Locked Out

By Jeffrey Stern (Published in the January 2013 issue of Referee Magazine)

*To view the magazine-formatted version of the Lockout story, click HERE

Late on the evening of Sept. 24, 2012, three men enjoy a nightcap at a New York City hotel. On the TV, the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers are battling it out on “Monday Night Football.” The trio — Scott Green and Jeff Triplette, NFL referees and the president and vice president, respectively, of the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) and Mike Arnold, the group’s legal counsel — are taking a break from discussions with the NFL aimed at ending the three-month-old lockout of NFL officials.

Their casual discussion comes to a halt when, on the screen, the game ends with one of the most controversial calls in NFL history. Replacement officials rule a simultaneous catch, giving a touchdown to Seattle rather than an interception to Green Bay. Within seconds, their cell phones are buzzing with calls from NFLRA members watching the game, certain that the egregiously incorrect call will hasten their return to the field.

They also take a call from the NFL, confirming that negotiations will resume in the morning. Two days later, the sides reach a tentative agreement on a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA), ending the lockout.
Here is how it all went down.

The Negotiations

Triplette spoke exclusively to Referee on the record on behalf of the union. Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and chief legal counsel, presented the league’s viewpoint. It was one of few interviews he granted.

The two sides began formal negotiations in October 2011. Triplette said the existing CBA called for talks to begin in the spring of 2011, but at that time the league’s focus was on agreeing to a CBA with the NFL Players Association. “When they got that settled in the summer (of 2011),” Triplette said, “we finally got together for our first session.”

Lead negotiators for the officials were Triplette; Green; Arnold; Tim Millis, NFLRA executive director; and back judge Tony Steratore, who serves on the association’s board and its negotiating committee.

Representing the NFL were Pash; Ray Anderson, executive vice president of football operations; David Gardi, NFL legal counsel; F. David Coleman, director of officiating; and Doug O’Connell, vice president of compensation and benefits. Carl Johnson, vice president of officiating, was not part of the negotiating team because it is not part of his duties. “Similar to coaches not negotiating player contracts,” explained Greg Aiello, NFL senior vice president of communications.

Others, including Commissioner Roger Goodell and representatives of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, sat in at various times as well.

Pash also represented the league in the two previous negotiations with the NFLRA. The last CBA, signed in 2006, was achieved with relative ease. The 2012 situation was similar to 2001, when the league locked out the officials and replacements took the field.

“The thing about 2001 is it was overshadowed by the (9/11) terrorist attacks,” Pash said. “We had the terrorist attacks early in the regular season, then we took a week off, and … in that two-week interim, we reached an agreement with the (NFLRA) to bring them back.”

As in any CBA, compensation was a part of the 2012 discussions. In particular, the officials’ game fees and the type of pension were at issue. But that was the tip of the iceberg.

“Economic issues tend to dominate the discussion, on the outside, at least,” Pash said. “But from the perspective of the owners, the non-economic issues were actually more important. Those included things like the proposal we had to hire some number of full-time officials (and) the proposal we had to hire additional officials to sort of serve as a bench, if you will, as a training development tool.”

The “reserve squad” was a contentious issue. According to profootballtalk.com (PFT), Anderson broached the topic at a Sept. 4 meeting with NBC producers and broadcasters.

Arnold responded to that report by contacting PFT via email. “The concept of hiring an additional 21 officials was raised for the first time by the NFL by a letter dated July 19, 2012,” Arnold wrote. “It proposed that the NFL could hire 21 additional officials but not pay them — it wants the current 121 officials to pay them. This is not fair or reasonable and demonstrates that it is a negotiating ploy not a serious proposal.”

The NFLRA also desired codification of issues apart from finances. “We spent a good bit of time talking about the training program that had started under Bill Lovett, and preserving and enhancing that program for existing officials,” Triplette said.

The training program is under the auspices of nine former NFL officials, covering each officiating position and representing a combined 265 years of total service. Prominent on the training staff are legendary referees Jerry Markbreit and Red Cashion.

“All of these retired NFL officials were kind of a confidential training resource for officials on the field,” Triplette said. “So that if you had a problem or you wanted to talk to someone that wasn’t a supervisor and evaluating you, there were some folks that had great expertise. We wanted to be able to continue that program.”

While Triplette said the league didn’t indicate it wanted to eliminate the trainers, there was discussion about modifying the program.

“The league felt, ‘If we’re paying for this, we at least ought to have some input into who the trainers are,’” Triplette said. “They had some ideas how they wanted it to evolve, and of course we had some other ideas. Our big one was to preserve the confidentiality, and make sure there were no written reports. The training program was not something that would be used to figure out how you terminate somebody.”

Another sticking point was an NFLRA proposal to remove Goodell from the loop when it comes to disputes involving officials.

“The commissioner … has a very significant authority with respect to disciplinary matters, and with respect to dispute resolution,” Pash said. “There were proposals basically to eliminate that authority or very sharply limit it in certain contexts. That was something that was just not going to be acceptable to our ownership, because they felt as though everyone should be operating under a common set of rules — owners, coaches, team staff and game officials. They were not prepared to change that simply for one category of employee, so that was a significant issue that we had to work our way through.”

The sides met periodically throughout the fall and winter. Storm clouds began to form in spring of 2012. The NFLRA negotiating committee met with owners Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), Bob McNair (Houston Texans) and Clark Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs).

“The meeting didn’t last very long,” Triplette recalled. “Both sides had stated their positions, and at that point it looked like we were pretty far apart on some pretty significant issues.”
The CBA expired on May 31. The lockout was on.

The Replacements

The NFL began looking for replacements before the lockout began. ESPN reported that Ron Baynes, officiating recruitment coordinator, sent an email to scouts on May 3, directing them to contact collegiate officials who had either retired or who had not been rehired by their leagues, or other potential candidates. Ironically, Baynes was looking to hire officials to step in for his sons, Rusty and Allen, who were among the locked-out NFL officials.

According to Aiello, “We began the process of hiring and training replacements to ensure that there would be no disruption to NFL games. … The non-union officials were all experienced football officials at various levels.”

Before the season, Green gave a warning. He told USA Today, “The folks that are going to be on the field are not NFL-quality officials that fans, players and coaches are used to seeing. … If calls aren’t being made, there will probably be additional things going on out on the field and that potentially could lead to … player-safety issues.”

Most of the replacements in 2001 were officials from the major collegiate conferences. The NFL could not dip into those ranks this time, in large measure because several of the coordinators of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences are current or former NFL officials. To assist the NFL by signing on as a replacement would mean losing 2012 assignments and possibly beyond.

Each replacement signed an officiating agreement dated June 2, 2012, that included the following provisions:

  • $5,000 if the official attended league training clinics, passed a physical and passed a background check.• $500 per day for each clinic or training camp session attended.
  • $2,000 per preseason game. An official who worked a preseason game was guaranteed three more game fees. (For the regular season, replacements signed a different contract. Game fees for the regular season were raised to $3,500 for referees, $3,000 for the other six officials and $2,000 for alternates.)
  • Coach airfare, ground transportation, hotel rooms and $75 per diem.
  • Two tickets per game.
  • Two hats, two shirts (one long-sleeved, one short-sleeved), one pair of officiating pants, a pair of shoes, flags and beanbags. (The agreement specified the replacements were to return those items when their employment ended. The league later rescinded that order.)

In July, the NFL conducted three training clinics for the replacements, two in Dallas, one in Atlanta. There were approximately 300 applicants.

Starting with the preseason, to help the replacements navigate the NFL’s complicated penalty enforcements and timing rules, the league put an eighth official, another replacement, on the sideline. Information and instruction from a member of the NFL officiating department stationed in the press box was relayed to the onfield officials through the alternate, who was outfitted with a headset.

When training camps opened, the NFL issued a memo to players, coaches and other team personnel that it was “imperative that your entire staff welcomes these officials and provides them with an environment that maximizes their training opportunities and encourages their development.” The memo also had talking points — scripted responses — that could be used when comments on the lockout were sought by the media.

Criticism of the replacements began right after the preseason opener. In an interview on WSCR-AM in Chicago, Fox Sports officiating analyst and former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira had pointed comments about one referee in particular.

“They’ve tried to say that Craig Ochoa, who worked the (Hall of Fame) game, was a (major college) official, that he worked in the Big Ten,” Pereira said. “He didn’t work in the Big Ten. He’s not been a major college official.”

Ochoa is the highway commissioner for the township of Hanover, Ill. His biography on its website lists him as a “professional football and basketball referee working mostly in the Big 10 Football Conference.”

The Big Ten Conference confirmed that Ochoa was never a member of its football officiating staff.

Aiello told ESPN that the replacements “have backgrounds similar to current NFL officials.”

Arnold, in the same story, disputed those assertions: ”It is unfortunate that as referees’ responsibilities are expanded that the NFL would jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game by seeking amateur, under-qualified referees to administer professional games.”

Pereira added that further proof of Ochoa’s unfitness to work in the NFL was that he had been fired from the Lingerie Football League (LFL), a circuit featuring scantily clad women playing an indoor version of the game. LFL Commissioner Mitchell Mortaza didn’t name names but released a statement that read in part, “Due to several onfield occurrences of incompetent officiating, we chose to part ways with a couple (officials who) apparently are now officiating in the NFL.”

Another hire that raised eyebrows  was the selection of Shannon Eastin, who became the first woman to officiate an NFL game. In her 16 years as an official, the highest level she had worked was the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a Football Championship Subdivision league one step below the Football Bowl Subdivision.

But what alarmed many was the fact that Eastin was a professional gambler. She had participated in a number of tournaments, including a 17th-place finish in an event during the 2007 World Series of Poker. The CBA that expired in May included a prohibition against gambling by officials. The subject was not covered in the agreement with replacements. But in this post-Tim Donaghy world, the idea of even a replacement official with a gambling history led many to question whether Eastin should be working in the NFL.

The league was aware of Eastin’s gambling. Michael Signora, NFL vice president of football communications, told PFT, “Past participation in an event such as a poker tournament does not disqualify a person from consideration as an NFL official.”

Two other officials came under fire for perception problems. Jeff Sadorus worked a Seattle game although he had been on the team’s payroll as an official for scrimmages. There is no evidence that Sadorus showed favoritism to the Seahawks in the game. Brian Strapolo was pulled from his New Orleans-Carolina assignment on gameday because his Facebook page indicated he was an unabashed Saints fan.

Referee requested an interview with the NFL’s Anderson for information on the selection, training and qualifications of the replacements, but the request was declined.

The Regular Season

The replacements received kudos from the top for their work in the first week of the regular season. “Our officials did a more than adequate job last night,” Goodell said after the Thursday night season opener. “I think we’ve proven we can train officials, get them up to NFL standards, and we’ve done that in a three-month period. These officials will get even better as time goes by.”

As the rest of the first week played out, TV announcers, while not effusive in their praise, did not heap criticism on the replacements, either. After the lockout ended, however, at least one analyst said that was by design.

On Dan Patrick’s radio show, Fox’s John Lynch said the NFL encouraged broadcast teams to “go easy” on the officials. “I know Week 1 the league kind of duped every network and called and said, ‘Hey we’re close to a deal so have your guys go easy,’” Lynch said. “And so that was kind of the edict from up top.”

But as the season progressed and the lockout dragged on, the era of good feeling came to an abrupt halt. Calls were dissected, scrutinized and ultimately demonized by fans, media, coaches and players.

Emotions boiled over during games on Sept. 23. New England Coach Bill Belichick was fined $50,000 for making contact with an official following his team’s loss to Baltimore and Washington Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan was fined $25,000 for chasing officials off the field after the Redskins’ loss to Cincinnati. Other coaches were shown on telecasts berating officials, though none was fined.

That led the league to issue a memo reminding teams that unsportsmanlike conduct would not be tolerated. Anderson told ESPN, “We contacted them to remind them that everyone has a responsibility to respect the game. We expect it to be adhered to this weekend and forevermore.”

Play became increasing rough in the intervening weeks. Some of the hits were flagged and others were not. The perceived inability of the replacements to control the games led the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to send two letters to the league, urging a resolution to the lockout.

A letter to Pash dated Sept. 5 from Tom DePaso, NFLPA general counsel, asserted the NFLRA would “take appropriate action to protect our members” if the union determined the replacements could not ensure the health and safety of the players.

A second missive, titled, “Your Lockout of the NFL Referees and the Negative Impact on Football,” was posted Sept. 23. NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth and New Orleans quarterback and NFLPA vice president Drew Brees were among those signing the letter, which read in part, “Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity.”

The NFL’s Johnson declined a request to discuss the evaluation and performance of the replacements. However, Pash said the league was pleased. “Our own perception is that the replacements performed really in an entirely satisfactory way, and about what you would expect,” he said. “I think no one could have possibly expected them to perform at the level of the regulars. We certainly didn’t.”

The Salvos

Pash and Triplette acknowledged the negotiations had a sharper, nastier edge than those in 2006. “Sometimes in a negotiation things get said, and you probably wish they hadn’t been said,” Triplette said. “I think both sides probably had some of those on occasion.”

For the most part, NFLRA members avoided public comment on all things lockout. “We decided early on that it was probably best that Mike Arnold be the principal spokesperson for us,” Triplette said. “We made sure that those were strategic in nature and very specific when we wanted to have that happen,” Triplette added. “It’s more or less along the lines of controlling the message that we wanted to convey, and having a single person do that for us.“

The NFL wanted the nine position trainers — Markbreit, Cashion, Ron Botchan, Ben Montgomery, Dean Look, Tom Fincken, Bill Schmitz, Jim Quirk and Sid Semon — to assist in the clinics. But when they refused out of loyalty to the NFLRA members, they were told their services were no longer needed.

When word of that action broke, Markbreit was besieged by interview requests. The trainers are not voting NFLRA members and thus had no official spokesman. Markbreit became the de facto voice of the trainers as well as the union and sharply criticized the league for the lockout. His strongest comments appeared in an interview with USA Today published Sept. 21. Markbreit said the replacements’ inability to keep games under control jeopardized player safety. “My only conclusion,” Markbreit said, “is that (NFL executives) just don’t care.”

Negative comments were being issued by the league as well. PFT reported that at the aforementioned September meeting with TV personnel, Anderson claimed some officials become complacent once they know they won’t get a postseason assignment and that, while some officials are in condition when the season begins, they gain weight and fall out of shape by the end.

Anderson wrote a guest editorial for the Sept. 26 edition of USA Today. Anderson offered that the “short-term discomfort” caused by the player lockout of 2011 led to a harmonious settlement. “We have approached the dispute with the game officials union with a similar game plan to achieve long-term stability and improve our officiating,” Anderson wrote.

Anderson took aim at the NFLRA members when he added, “No one wants to see the outcome of a game determined by an official’s call, but it has happened several times in the past. Officiating is never perfect.”

On Sept. 24, it was far from perfect, and it resulted in the most talked-about and debated call in recent memory.

The Call

Week 3 of the season concluded with that nationally televised game between Green Bay and Seattle. Green Bay held a 12-7 lead with eight seconds remaining in the game. Seattle had the ball, fourth and 10, at the Packer 24 yardline.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took a shotgun snap, dropped back, then sprinted to his left. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, he heaved a pass to the end zone. In football parlance, it’s known as a Hail Mary: throw the ball and pray a teammate catches it.

In the end zone were four Green Bay defenders and two Seattle receivers. As the ball neared the cluster of players, Seattle’s Golden Tate gave Packer Sam Shields a two-handed shove from behind, sending Shields to the ground. Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings, the player in the rear of the grouping, leaped and got his hands on the ball. Tate in effect caught Jennings, wrapping his arms around the opponent and getting at least a partial grip on the ball.

Side judge Lance Easley arrived at the pile a few seconds ahead of back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn. Easley looked at the pile, glanced at Rhone-Dunn and threw his hands in the air to signal a touchdown. At the same instant, Rhone-Dunn gave the stop-the-clock signal. While time had expired, that signal is proper when an official believes he and a crewmate need to confer before arriving at a decision. Bedlam broke out with Jennings and Tate still grappling while Seattle players swarmed the end zone to congratulate their teammate.

Instant replay is used on all scoring plays; thus, the call was subject to being reversed. However, referee Wayne Elliott determined there was no indisputable visual evidence to overturn the call on the field. The touchdown stood and Seattle won.

The NFL released a statement three days after the game, affirming the call but noting that Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference for shoving Shields.

Despite the NFL’s affirmation, few non-Seahawk fans believed it was a correct call. For the next 48 hours, it was impossible to watch TV, pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio without seeing or hearing about the call.

Not only was Easley seen over and over covering the play, he later made appearances on The NFL Today and the Today Show. Any time he has been interviewed, he has maintained his call was correct.

The national outrage reached a fever pitch. Ending the lockout became not so much a wish as a demand.

The Agreement

Negotiations had been ongoing for more than a week before a final deal was struck.

“We had been meeting I would say for the better part of 10 days,” Pash said, “close to on a daily basis, either meeting or phone conversations. My own feeling is that we were very likely — not 100 percent — but we were very likely to come to an agreement that week.”

Triplette agreed, saying, “We were in very sensitive negotiations prior to that Monday night. … We were on the road to probably reaching an agreement. Was it the agreement that we ended up with? That’s hard to say.”

In a nutshell, these are the key points of the new CBA:

  • Five-year continuation of the defined benefit retirement plan.
  • A ratification bonus of $2.5 million to be distributed based on seniority, either as a 401k deposit or cash. The payment equaled what the league saved by using non-union officials.
  • An average defined contribution of $22,000, based on seniority, starting in 2017 and continuation of the current 401k match contribution of $3,750 per year.
  • Hiring of seven NFLRA members as full-time employees. “In terms of who the full-time officials will be, that’s up in the air,” Pash said. “I don’t know who they are at this point. I would expect it’s much more likely that it will be implemented for the 2013 season.”
  • Continuation of the trainer program in its previous form.
  • Formation of a labor-management team to handle disputes and work together on officiating improvement.

There will be a “reserve list” of officials, but they will be officials identified as future prospects. Triplette said the idea of sitting “struggling” officials died. “Officials don’t get better sitting on the sidelines. You also don’t sit down Peyton Manning when he throws three interceptions. When it got serious in the last week, I think the commissioner came to the realization that we, just like him, want to see the game get better. There are ways we can do this without using a hammer.”

The agreement is for eight years, longer than any previous CBA. Both sides see benefits in that.

“The league wanted a longer term deal than we wanted, but we got some things that we wanted in exchange for that longer term deal,” Triplette said. “The league has … stability, and our members have stability in knowing this thing is not going to last just five or six years.”

Said Pash, “We’re more and more moving toward longer term deals with key partners and participants in our business. I think, frankly, we would’ve signed a longer deal if they had wanted to. It would give us enough time so that everyone could get their blood pressure back to a normal level before we had to gear up for another round of negotiations, and also because we had a longer term deal it allowed us to say to our ownership, we can go another year or so on maintaining the pension plan in place to allow a longer period of time to transition out.”

The league was able to get the NFLRA to back off its demand that Goodell be taken out of the officials’ discipline loop. Triplette said the union wanted those cases heard by someone more independent of the league heirarchy as opposed to the man at the top. But practicality ruled the day in that case. “The commissioner said, ‘I don’t understand why we’re spending time on this. I’ve been the commissioner six years and I’ve never heard one of these grievances,’” Triplette recalled.

The CBA had yet to be approved by the NFLRA members, but the association’s board unanimously endorsed it. Goodell insisted that, in order to reach an accord, the regular officials had to work all Week 4 games, including the one the next night in Baltimore. That posed a potential problem for both sides. If the NFLRA did not ratify the CBA at its Sept. 28-29 meeting in Dallas, seven members would have worked while the others remained sidelined. The league could have faced a situation in which NFL officials worked one game but replacements worked the other 14. Moreover, with a Saturday vote, the league would not have had time to dispatch replacements to cover the remaining games.

Gene Steratore’s crew was assigned the Thursday game, in part because of proximity and convenience; he could drive from his home near Pittsburgh to Baltimore. Some other members of his crew, however, were unable to work due to business or other commitments. Several late-night phone calls were made and the openings were filled.

“(The NFL) had identified several crews that were in close proximity, where most of the crew members could probably get there on an early morning flight to get to the game site,” Triplette said.

Steratore and his crew were greeted with a thunderous standing ovation from more than 70,000 fans. Two days later, the officials approved the CBA by a 112-5 vote.

The replacements were paid for Week 4 despite the settlement. They returned home to work high school or college games. Many, like Easley, did interviews to describe the experience. When asked by The New York Times about the criticism heaped upon the replacements, Sadorus evoked a higher power. “Everyone wanted perfection,” he said, “but come on. The last guy who was perfect, they nailed to a cross. And he wasn’t even an official.”

The Aftermath

There was joy and relief among the officials that they were going back to work, but there was anger and bitterness as well. Anderson, whose comments throughout the lockout infuriated the NFLRA, was not greeted warmly in Dallas.

An official at the meeting, who requested anonymity, said Anderson’s comments kept the union unified and committed to its positions. And the hard feelings toward him will not go away any time soon.

“Ray spoke when we voted on the ratification and we came back on that Saturday morning for the vote,” the official said. “Immediately after the vote they had a mini clinic for a couple of hours. He spoke at the beginning of that clinic, and there was dead silence in the room. That tells you all you need to know.”

PFT reported it is likely Anderson will be reassigned and given different responsibilities which do not include officiating. Referee was unable to speak to Anderson to confirm or deny that report.

As in Baltimore on that Thursday night, fans in other cities greeted the regular officials with applause and signs welcoming them back. The Oct. 8 issue of Sports Illustrated heralded the settlement with a cover photo and feature story on uberbuff referee Ed Hochuli. The cover carried the line, “Oh, Now You Love Us.” Indeed, those inside and outside the game were pleased to see NFLRA members return to the field. From Triplette’s view, that includes the NFL.

“In my opinion, they have a better appreciation for what we do,” he said. “They were very complimentary even before the lockout of our work and what we do. It wasn’t that we were bad. In the end, everybody probably learned something out of this.

“We learned that we have to do a good job and a better job of not only working the game on the field, but also helping folks understand the difficulty of what our job is,” Triplette added. “It’s like in anything: When you do it well, folks get accustomed to you doing it well and they don’t appreciate how well someone does it until you don’t do it anymore.”

Jeffrey Stern is senior editor of Referee. He is a veteran high school and college football official.

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