It’s Official: Dad would be proud

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

of Colgate


A small, barely noticeable article in Saturday’s sports news caught my eye. It read that Delaware’s Blue Hens had defeated Colgate 40-0 for the Division I-AA title.

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It seems the defeat broke Colgate’s 15-game winning streak, but more remarkable is the fact that Colgate is the first non-scholarship team to reach the finals of the Division I-AA playoffs since Lehigh in 1979.

Lehigh defeated Eastern Kentucky in that game, and the officiating crew for that game was assigned by the SEC.

I was fortunate to be assigned to officiate the Lehigh-Eastern Kentucky championship game. I believe it was at Lehigh’s home field, but I’m not sure.

Many of you remember my dad, who died in 1997, and those who knew him couldn’t miss that he was a transplanted Yankee. Dad graduated from Colgate in 1926, was a football letterman and was captain of the track team.

He remained loyal to his alma mater. I recall he often remarked about the Colgate team of 1930 which was undefeated, untied, and uninvited (to a bowl game), though they were considered the best team in the East. Dad would have been proud of this year’s Colgate Red Raiders.

Schools of that era were not classified by the NCAA, and their schedules were only limited by their ambitions. In the 1920s and even until 1978 there were no NCAA divisions, and though there were small schools and large schools, the two groups often scheduled games outside of their category.

Non-scholarship schools generally played other non-scholarship teams, but the major schools always had a few patsies throughout their schedule.

Most SEC schools followed the same pattern, and most still don’t like to overload with powerhouses since they must play basically a round-robin conference schedule.

When I began officiating high school football in 1957, most of the officials with whom I worked officiated by the seat of their pants.

That is, they knew the basic rules of the game but didn’t really bother to keep up with annual rules changes. They all had a good sense of the game and knew how it was supposed to be played.

Since few coaches and fewer fans knew any of the rules, there were few problems.

There were exceptions like Clarence Bowlin, who not only knew the rules but had the common sense to enforce those rules.

One of the best seat-of-the-pants officials I knew was referee Bud Hartsfield, who always had complete control of the game.

One night in Woodville, before fences were required around the fields, several drunk guys were giving us a lot of flack.

Bud stopped the game, went in the stands and found a deputy sheriff, took the deputy across the field to where the drunks were and had him escort them off the premises. Hartsfield then restarted the game, and we finished with no further problems.

Bud was one of those guys who officiated by the seat of his pants, but he surely could make it official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached at