Learning At The CFO Football Officials Clinic

I had an absolutely fantastic experience on Friday and Saturday at the CFO West Football Officials Clinic at the DFW North Airport Marriott. Oklahoma State radio play-by-play announcer Dave Hunziker and I made the trip to the Dallas metroplex where we were joined by members of the media and radio broadcast teams at TCU, Baylor and West Virginia,

We went to dinner Friday night with Bob Burda, Wendell Barnhouse and Ed Stewart of the Big 12 Conference office. On Saturday, we were briefed by Big 12 Conference Supervisor of Officials and NFL referee Walt Anderson.

We learned of the new rules and discussed them. I know the kickoff rule is the one getting a lot of attention but it is the helmet rule that Anderson said will end up being the most visible and controversial.

Anytime a helmet completely comes off a player during the course of play this season, first, that player can complete the act of what he is doing, but after that he is an ineligible player and cannot contribute, period. If he does make a block, make a tackle, chase a runner, do anything then his team is flagged for illegal participation.

Second, if a player's helmet comes off then he is like an injured player and must leave the game for a play. Now, the only saving grace there is if the helmet comes off as the result of an illegal act, such as illegal hands to the face, helmet-to-helmet targeting, or a facemask penalty.

It's inevitable that at some point a team is going to have to face a critical play, such as third down on offense or a key play in a drive on defense without a key player because of a helmet coming off. There will be a renewed emphasis on equipment managers to make sure players are fitted well. They always have as that is a key safety issue.

Oklahoma State's staff takes that extremely serious, and always has. For the players there will be an emphasis to do what they are supposed to with regards to wearing the helmet and having the chin strap tight and fastened.

Mark my words, this will be a big deal and will decide some games before the season is over.

We were able to sit in and view the equipment and the typical operation in a replay booth, and even have the opportunity to play the role of replay officials. There are two systems now in use in the Big 12. Oklahoma State and most of the league uses XOS, but newcomers TCU and West Virginia use DV Sport. The systems are similar in operation.

Dave and I sat in on the referees meetings as they went over video of roughing the quarterback, roughing the kicker, and roughing the punter calls. They also looked at the "halo" rule as it is back on kick catching with an abbreviated halo of one yard in the 180 degrees around the player attempting to field the kick or punt.

The Big 12 referees in that meeting –- Tom Walker, Scott Novak, Greg Burks, Randy Christal, Cooper Castleberry, Reggie Smith, Rick Loumiet and Mike Defee –– were obviously the leaders as they were constantly asked to and were delivering opinions and viewpoints. It is a very talented group.

We took the officials rules test administered by the Big 12 Conference, and each of us scored an 84. A grade of 70 or less and an official does not work the upcoming season.Besides the Big 12, officials from the Mountain West, Southland, MIAA, Rocky Mountain Athletic and SWAC conferences were participating in the CFO West Clinic.

We also went to the back judge/field judge meetings with an emphasis on pass interference and catch/no catch rulings.

What you come away with the most is the knowledge that these men officiating college football take their roles extremely serious. They have high integrity and character, love the game of football, appreciate each other and especially the members on their crews, and want to be the best at what they do.

How about this? I learned that in the Big 12, officials are paid on performance. I knew officials were graded each week. Walt Anderson has a team of former officials and NFL officials that grade each of the crews and each official on a crew each week. At the end of the season an officials average grade determines their pay for the next season.

There is an A-scale, a B-scale, and a C-scale. Anything below a C-scale and an official isn't working in the Big 12. Over the past five years, the Big 12 has let go of 27 officials.

Anderson told us that the average percentage of right calls in the NFL is currently 98.4 percent. The Big 12 average on correct decisions last season was 98.2 percent.

Next time you want to claim the officials blew the call or the officials are against your team, or they don't care, then remember these little tidbits.

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