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New white hats looking to earn an ‘R’

NFL trying out potential replacements for retiring head referees

The NFL is preparing for the inevitable retirement of officiating crew chiefs by conducting trial runs for some promotions in the second preseason weekend. An officiating source said that at least one head referee will retire at the end of the season. The source told Football Zebras on the condition of anonymity because that official has not made the retirement announcement public. As best as we can tell, the NFL has not done these tryouts for the referee position since the 2007 preseason.

The league says that it uses the preseason to evaluate officials at different positions. “Part of what we are trying to accomplish in the preseason from an officiating standpoint is to test and evaluate, which includes the assignment of specific positions to individual officials,” NFL vice president of communications Michael Signora told Football Zebras.

The four officials who will wear the the white hat for the evaluation are Adrian Hill, Wayne Mackie, Ronald Torbert, and Craig Wrolstad. The NFL, as a matter of policy, does not discuss specific upcoming assignments, and as such, this list is not confirmed or denied by the league office.

(Full preseason week 2 referee assignments)

JHMag, APLAdrian Hill

Adrian Hill entered the NFL in 2010 from Conference USA where he most recently was a crew chief. In 2007, Hill worked in the now-defunct NFL Europe league as a line judge. He was the line judge on Ed Hochuli’s crew until this season, and will serve under John Parry this year. Hill is a software engineer for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Hill was mentioned by Football Zebras last season as one of five potential referee recruits.

wayne_mackie_libertybellWayne Mackie

Mackie is entering his seventh NFL season as head linesman. Prior to that, Mackie worked in the Atlantic 10 and Big East conferences as well as the Arena Football League and its spinoff league, AF2. He also was assigned to the NFL Europe league for three seasons, including the championship game in 2005.

As director of operations for the New York City Housing Authority, he has coordinated outreach programs and clinics to encourage officiating co-sponsored by the league and the housing authority.

Mackie was assigned to the NFC championship game between the 49ers and Falcons last season.

torbert_stevesmithRonald Torbert

Torbert is an attorney from Michigan in his fourth NFL season. He has worked with Parry and Hochuli and will be on Tony Corrente’s crew this year. Torbert came from the Big Ten, and was a crew chief in his final collegiate season.

Tobert was the side judge on the crew that worked the frigid double-overtime divisional playoff game between the Ravens and Broncos. During our live coverage of that game, our own Mark Schultz commented, “Outstanding touchdown call by side judge Ron Torbert … I fully expect him to be appointed as a NFL referee very soon.”

wrolstad3Craig Wrolstad

Wrolstad is entering his 11th season in the NFL, and has worked for several years on Hochuli’s crew. He served several seasons in NFL Europe, including three seasons as crew chief. Prior to entering the NFL, Wrolstad was in the Pac-10 conference and the Arena Football League. He is also an athletic director for a private school system in Washington state.

Wrolstad was the field judge for Super Bowl XLVII last February in New Orleans and the Seahawks-Falcons divisional playoff game. He also had a conference championship assignment two seasons ago, and is currently on a string of six consecutive seasons with a postseason assignment.

Mark Schultz also contributed to this report.

Images: John Davis/Johns Hopkins Magazine,    Liberty Bell Football Officials Clinic, Carolina Panthers photo, Seattle Christian Schools

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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6 thoughts on “New white hats looking to earn an ‘R’

  1. Best of luck to these guys. Any news of new referees that will coming to the NFL? I would assume a lot of the replacements from last season would fill that wait list. I am sure there would be a good blog out there for the good and bad potential new official refs from the replacement pool last year.

  2. Chad, doubtful any of the replacements would even be considered. The politics of the situation basically automatically exclude them from consideration. The regulars wouldn’t take too well to the “scabs”, who are far less experienced and skilled, being hired as full time. There are about a thousand D1 guys who will be considered before one replacement is.

  3. Is the NFL considering using the trainees or are they going to use officials from the crew that is off in filling in for those officials being considered as referees?

  4. @ Chuck — a little of both. I’m not sure that they would put a first-time R and a trainee on the field at the same time, so they might shuffle up the crews to fill in all the gaps.

  5. I felt Wayne Mackie struggled greatly with the on-field calls during the Browns-Lions game. He seemed nervous and looked confused on nearly every call. As a fan, I have to say that it was honestly painful to watch…I was dreading the call every time a flag dropped. I’m sure Mr. Mackie is an outstanding official, but this was not his finest hour.

  6. I

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