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Big 12 football officials are in good hands

by Berry Tramel Modified: July 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm •  Published: July 12, 2011

Walt Anderson likes replay review.

You'd think instant replay would be the enemy of a football official. Who among us likes to be overruled? Who likes to be told we're wrong? Who likes technology to usurp our authority?

But Anderson, who as the referee in the most recent Super Bowl and the Big 12's coordinator of officials is the highest-statured zebra in football today, embraces replay.

For the best of reasons. He likes to get things right.

“I love instant replay,” Anderson said. “I think, in all honesty, it has helped us avoid interjecting officials into the game.”

Anderson's theory: replay keeps officials out of Monday (or Sunday) morning headlines. Fixes catastrophic missed calls.

“Our role is to officiate the game,” Anderson said. “It's not to be part of the game.”

It's easy to bash the refs. Easy to rail against a pass interference call or an excessive-celebration flag. Easy to demand the head of Jack Sisco or Gordon Riese or Ed Hochuli after a bobbling of gridiron justice.

But spend a day at the Big 12 officiating clinic, as I did last weekend, and you realize that officials are committed to getting things right.

That's not just a mantra. Not just a slogan. Their actions prove it.

Anderson blew his whistle at 8 a.m. Saturday, and the KCI Airport Hilton's ballroom grew quiet.

Time to get serious.

Big 12 football officials do not take their craft lightly. As intricate as coaches get with their players in terms of footwork and technique and split-second decision-making, instructors do the same with their officials.

Where exactly to stand on the goal line when a play comes your way? When should a line judge stick on the line of scrimmage and when should he float back with a retreating quarterback? When does an umpire have responsibility for an interior line play and when does he not?

All questions asked and answered and discussed, with the same attention to detail that a coach would require of his quarterback.

They attend multiple clinics in the offseason and volunteer to call practices and scrimmages in the spring and August. Then they report to their game location the night before and have intensive meetings and film studies leading up to kickoff.

Firefighters and dentists and school administrators by day, college football officials become keepers of the game. A sport that easily could descend into anarchy instead retains a sense of order, thanks to the men in striped shirts and the men who oversee them.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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