Big 12 Officials Clinic News

I spent Friday and part of Saturday at the CFO West Officials Clinic (for officials in the Big 12, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC, MIAA and Rocky Mt. Athletic conferences). This is always a beneficial tool for myself and Dave Hunziker. Both of us took the officials test on Friday, proctored along with the referees.

I have to give all bragging rights to Dave as he knocked out both bonus questions and had a net -1 and a score of 96 on the exam. They wanted to hire him as a replay official before me left but we are keeping him on the broadcast crew. I did not do as well, but hit both bonus questions and would likely get to work as an official this season if I had the knees for it.

There are some changes in the Big 12 as three prominent officials are retired, two of them referees. Big 12 fans will miss the Texas drawl of first down from Randy Christal as one of the referees that has worked all 19 Big 12 seasons thus far has retired and will be an official's observer for the conference. Christal is a great guy, an astute official, and he will be missed on the field.

Greg Burks (shown above), fresh off working the first ever College Football Playoff Championship Game, and he showed Hunziker and I the ring that went with the assignment, is retiring to become the coordinator of football officiating for the Mountain West Conference.

Burks is really good, and I told him at the clinic I will miss him. I always knew when his crew was there everything from an officiating standpoint would be smooth as could be. There is a reason he ended his officiating career on the field with the top assignment you could have.

I swear side judge Freeman Johns was working games when I was first arriving at Oklahoma State. I told him I remember listening to him and Cowboys receiver Rashaun Woods have a detailed conversation about positioning and what a receiver could and could not get away with. Johns said he remembered that too and that it came before a game with Baylor. Amazing recall. He also said to tell Rashaun, "hello, from that skinny official that used to ride him on his push offs."

The Big 12 has hired new officials and a couple will be women. The most logical of the women would be Catherine Conti, who has worked in the Mountain West and worked a Big 12 game last season at Kansas, but she was hired in the offseason as an official for the Pac-12 Conference.

Now for the on the field X's and O's of officiating for this season. Little has changed in the way of rules, the lightest season in years from actual rule changes. But Big 12 Coordinator of Officials and NFL referee Walt Anderson said that was okay because it will allow for a better concentration on fundamentals and points of emphasis this season.

The biggest rule change is that the replay official is now allowed to review whether a player on the onside kickoff team was blocking a receiving player before that contact would be allowed causing for an illegal recovery of an onside kick.

Points of emphasis this season will continue to be substitutions and allowing defenses the opportunity to match up when the offense substitutes on the fly. The officials will also pay a lot of attention to offensive linemen and whether they are downfield on pass plays. Defensive coordinators are complaining a lot about this one as it often causes their safeties and linebackers to misread and come up to stop the run and then the quarterback stops and throws over their head. The rule for offensive linemen is three yards prior to and as the pass is released. A new rules limiting that to one yard was nearly passed and then pulled.

I like the current rule but it does need to be enforced and officials admit with looking for holding and infractions involving the quarterback as well as pass interference it is often hard to spot.

Speaking of pass interference, offensive pass interference will continue to be a point of emphasis especially spotting designed plays (pick plays) the purposely try to knock defenders off coverage.

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