Big 12 Football Officials Clinic Notebook

I'm back from the annual trek down to Dallas for the Big 12 Football Officials and CFO West Clinic. It is always informative and it is a blast to hang out with the NFL officials that serve as moderators and all of the Big 12 officials with other officials in attendance from the Mountain West, Rocky Mountain Athletic, MIAA, Southland, Lone Star, and SWAC conferences.

Below are some notes some of what I learned and discovered.

Cowboys Early Game Assignments
Games from the first five weeks of the season are assigned for all the officials in all the leagues in attendance. Oklahoma State is playing defending national champion Florida State in the opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas for the Advocare Cowboys Kickoff Classic.

That game will be handled by a neutral crew, similar to a bowl game. This year the officiating crew will be from the Pac-12 and will be the crew headed by veteran referee Land Clark. Week two of the season Oklahoma State will host Missouri State and that game will be officiated by the Big 12 crew led by veteran referee Randy Christal.

The next week the Cowboys host UTSA, and something that kind of bothers me is OSU allowing visiting teams to bring their conference officiating crew, so a C-USA crew will handle that game.

The first Big 12 game will be on Thursday, Sept. 25, at Boone Pickens Stadium and on national television on ESPN with Texas Tech visiting. One of the top crews in the Big 12 with referee Mike Defee and umpire Robert Richeson leading the team working the game.

Points of Emphasis Include Sideline Control and Taunting
Major points of emphasis this season include sideline control. The rules committee feels this has been out of hand lately. The officials will be watching coaches out on the field and also going past the 25-yard-line barriers on the sideline.

Some freedom will be extended for celebrations and for signaling provided the coaches and/or players get out of the way before the play begins. As for coming out on the field to argue with officials there will be no leeway. The first violation will be a warning with no flag, but an announcement over the public address in the stadium by the referee. The second and third violations will results in a penalty flag and five-yard mark off. From that point on it becomes a 15-yard penalty.

Officials will also be looking for all kinds of poor sportsmanship and taunting. That includes dancing, spiking or spinning the football, threatening and obscene gestures, and more.

This is a year where only penalties involving player safety can be added to the rule book. The biggest change is that while targeting will be called exactly the way it was last season. This season if the call is overturned by replay review not only will the player ejection be dropped but so will the penalty yardage.

First Female Official to Work a Big 12 Game
Cat Conti, a 14-year football official and a very interesting woman from Southern California, will make her Big 12 debut. We believe she will be the first female official assigned by the Big 12 Conference to work a game in the league when she is the center judge for the Southeast Missouri State at Kansas game on Sept. 6. Read more in our feature story on Conti.

Looking for Offensive Pass Interference
One of the breakout sessions that I sat in on was on offensive and defensive pass interference. It included the back judges, side judges, field judges, line judges, and head linesmen. Heading the session were NFL officials Byron Boston (line judge) and Terrence Miles (back judge).

They applauded the college officials for getting defensive pass interference called with 90 percent efficiency. That is 90 percent correct in calling it when it was there and not calling it when it wasn't. However, Boston said the college officials were woeful on offensive pass interference with only a 50 to 60 percent correct rate on that call.

A lot of video was shown on various ways that offensive teams actually scheme offensive pass interference into their plays with picks and rubs on defenders. Look for that call to be made more often in the upcoming season.

A New Big 12 Official from Oklahoma
With referee Scott Novak and one other Big 12 official being promoted to the NFL for the upcoming season, Big 12 supervisor of officials Walt Anderson needed to hire some permanent additions to the Big 12 roster of officials. He added Mountain West head linesman Jerod Phillips.

Phillips lives in Oklahoma and becomes the second Big 12 official currently living in the state, joining veteran Marc Bovos of Poteau. I know I have always been an advocate of the Big 12 having more officials in the conference from the state with both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma making up 20 percent of the league.

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