It’s Official: Friends get call to call Senior Bowl

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

A couple of notes from Saturday’s Senior Bowl from Mobile, Ala. The officials were not all from the SEC, unless all but the referee came into the SEC after my final year as an observer in 2000.

I think the Senior Bowl now makes its own assignments and likely spreads those assignments around rather than simply letting the officials themselves keep those assignments until they decide to retire, then allowing them to pass that assignment on to whomever they choose.

The referee for this year’s Senior Bowl was Rocky Goode, an SEC official from Knoxville, Tenn. Rocky is a veteran official and worked the Las Vegas Bowl this season. He was also featured in the Fox Sports South’s production, &uot;Stripes,&uot; which many fans saw a couple of years ago.

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The film followed Rocky and his officiating crew for the entire 2000 season and featured Bert Ackerman, also from Knoxville, who was in his final season of officiating. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to observe that crew in their final game (it was Arkansas at Mississippi State on a very cold, sleety night). Bert and I had officiated many games together.

Many years ago when I was still an on-field official, Bert and I crossed paths late one evening in the Atlanta airport. We were both returning from officiating assignments, and Bert had worked the Ole Miss- State game in Jackson.

The first thing he said to me was, &uot;You know what could happen? It did.&uot; He was referring to the State field goal that was blown back through the goal posts by the &uot;miraculous gust&uot; of wind, a situation we had talked about in our officiating clinic many times. Of course, I recognized exactly what he was talking about instantly.

In talking about the college all-star games last week, I did not mean to imply any of those players would give anything less than their best effort. They are all way too competitive for that.

The rules set up for those games dictate a certain style of play, and the future earnings potential for those players is so high that any nick or scrape will put them on the sidelines.

I have learned the NFL now assigns playoff games including, the Super Bowl, by regular season crews rather than individually. This is logical, since these crews work together for the whole season.

There are restrictions that will cause some crew members not to be assigned to playoffs. An official must have officiated in the NFL for five years, and a referee must have worked that position in the NFL for five years to be assigned to the Super Bowl.

The NFL hires, trains and assigns officials for the Arena Football League, arenafootball2 and NFL Europe. That farm system is intended to keep a steady flow of trained officials ready at all times. The League does not want the threat of an official’s strike to happen.

Spring sports are here. SEC women’s softball started last weekend with Florida playing in the Sunshine State Softball Kickoff.

Most of the schools have scheduled 65 games. A lot of work for umpires.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at