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Outside the Stripes

Who are the next white hats?



The NFL officiating staff is heavy on experience which is great news.  The flip side to this is that we will be seeing a higher than average number of officials retiring in the next one to three years.

Mike Carey, Jeff Triplette, and Gerald Austin all have held the rare honor of being a NFL referee

While there are many officials at all positions on the cusp of retirement, the most high profile retirements are when referees (the white hats) retire.  There are many referees that are into their 60s, including Ed Hochuli, Mike Carey, and Bill Leavy to name a few.  What happens when these referees and other white hats retire?  There are many officials on the field right now who could potentially step behind the quarterback in the coming seasons as well as many others in college that could eventually become a referee.

In the last 50 years, the NFL has hired only one official directly onto the staff as a referee (Tommy Bell).  All the other officials, even the most famous ones, started out in other positions before becoming a referee.  Jim Tunney started as a field judge.  Jerry Markbreit started as a line judge.  Scott Green was a back judge before donning the white hat.  Officials usually wait around five years before being assigned to the referee’s position, while some, like Markbreit and Tom White become a referee after one season.

Here are some officials who could be in the running for the referee’s position, based on prior crew chief experience in the NCAA:

  • Ron Torbert
  • Adrian Hill
  • Terry Brown
  • Barry Anderson

In addition, Scott Helverson has expressed interest in being a referee in published stories.

It will be very interesting to see who the NFL hires in the next few seasons.  If the NFL hires several prominent, young, major college referees, they could be put on the fast track to becoming a pro football referee.

There are also other officials who have excelled on the field who could be a referee.  It is not a requirement that NFL referees have collegiate experience as a white hat.  Dale Hamer was never a referee until he was in the NFL.  Current referee, Walt Anderson, officiated one lower-level collegiate game as a referee.  His next game as a white hat was in the NFL.

For fans of NFL officiating, it is very interesting to watch a new referee when he moves from his old position and leads a crew.  Judging by the age of the current roster of NFL officials, those fans will have many new opportunities in the coming years.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"