Through the Eyes of an Official

During football season, this feature will appear on the premium side of the forum. Dr. Ronald North, MD, a plastic surgeon and football official in West Texas, will present different aspects of the game including rule interpretations, mechanics and positions of officials on the field and will even try to answer questions from the readers that involve officiating (sans judgment calls).

How many players break the huddle? Are there 5 players numbered between 50 and 79 on the line? Are there no more than 4 players in the offensive backfield? Are there 11 players on each side of the ball? Is anyone offside? These are some of the routine pre-snap thoughts and questions that cross a wing official's mind, much like a golfer's pre-shot routine, that are just automatic. Without the driving range and putting green where the golfer can stay sharp, officials use spring football as one of the means to stay in shape, both mentally and figuratively.

Football officials begin their career at the junior high level, advancing to the 6-man version in Texas on Friday nights. Soon they are a member of a 5 man crew traveling to smaller communities where the fall Friday night lights can be spotted several miles coming into town.

For the official who shows promise, clinics are held by the Big XII where that official may travel to Denver, or Kansas City, or Houston and attend a workshop. If that person's responses merit further attention, an invitation to assist with Spring Practice may follow.

Each of the Big XII schools have a coordinator, such as we have here at Texas Tech, who will assign a less experienced official to assist with officiating 7 on 7 drills, position drills, and even time on the field during the scrimmages. Those films are actually sent to the Big XII office for review. Usually the officials are in shorts and stripe shirts, but their mechanics can be evaluated as if it were a live game.

For the final practice, however, commonly referred to as the SPRING GAME, the Big XII sends an experienced crew of Big XII officials in full uniform who use this "real game" situation to enhance their work together as a unit. All fouls are flagged. All penalties are enforced.

So you see, we often think of Spring only as the players trying to make the team, trying to win a starting position, trying to learn the system, or at least impress the coaches. But in reality, many others including the officials, also use this time to stay sharp, introduce new crew members, and allow younger officials a chance to advance in the faster game of college football.

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