Buried in the fourth quarter of the Monday night game was an announcement of interest to us NFL rules wonks. Play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico on the introduction with analyst Jon Gruden:
This gentleman, Gerry Austin, has worked three Super Bowls, two — as Jon likes to say — wearing the white hat as the referee. And he’s going to be with us on Monday Night Football throughout the season, every time we have a rules question, we’ll turn to an expert, because I’m sick of dealing with [Gruden’s interpretations of the rules]. So, I brought in Gerry with his whistle and his flag. It’s great to have you with us.
The hiring of Mike Pereira in 2010, which was considered the best thing in sports television that year, filled a giant vacuum of rules knowledge from the broadcast analysts. No longer would we be chained to incorrect interpretations, as Fox Sports network directors are able to conjure up Pereira, the former NFL vice-president of officiating, in an on-screen box to explain the rulings on confusing and controversial plays.
[media-credit name=”NFL/Fox Sports” align=”alignright” width=”250″][/media-credit]ESPN now has Gerry Austin as their rules analyst for the 2012 season. Austin is currently the officiating coordinator for Conference USA. Austin entered the NFL as a side judge in 1982 and was promoted to referee in 1990. He officiated until 2007, having been forcibly retired by the league in the ensuing offseason.
Austin was also honored by the NFL Referees Association for his contributions to officiating last April.
He will apparently be traveling to each Monday night gamesite, and will be available in the booth during the game to help keep Tirico and Gruden on track with the proper application of the NFL rulebook.