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Bob Wortman, 2-time Super Bowl FJ and 2-time Final Four referee, dies at 87



Bob Wortman 1927-2015

Former field judge Robert Wortman passed away on October 20, 2015. He was 87 years old.

Wortman distinguished himself as an athlete in his younger years and as a college basketball referee and pro football field judge after his playing days.

A native of Findlay, Ohio, Wortman played football and basketball. He played those sports and played baseball while attending Findlay College.

After a stint in the baseball minor leagues, Wortman began working in the insurance business and started officiating basketball and football to stay near sports.

Wortman worked his way up to officiating college basketball and college football. He was hired by the American Football League as a field judge (now called back judge), and then officiated in the NFL when the two leagues merged. Wortman wore number 84 for much of his NFL officiating career. He worked on several different crews lead by referees Bob Finley, Bob Frederic, Fred Wyant, Red Cashion, and Bob McElwee.

Wortman excelled as an NFL official, being assigned to several playoff games and working Super Bowl VI and Super Bowl XII. Wortman had the call of the game in Super Bowl XII (pictured above), calling a touchdown for Cowboys wide receiver, Butch Johnson — a catch that would not be valid under today’s rules, but was the correct call in 1978. 

While working as a NFL official, Wortman also continued on as a college basketball official. Many NFL officials cross pollinated as NCAA basketball officials over the years including Wortman; however he was the first official to call the pinnacle in both sports as he officiated the NCAA National Basketball Championship in 1976. After his basketball officiating days, Wortman served as Big 10 supervisor of officials in basketball.

Wortman served his country as a member of the United States Army.

He is survived by six children, 14 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. His wife, a son, and two grandchildren preceded him in death.

Our sympathies to all who knew Mr. Wortman and loved him.

His full obituary is posted below.

WortmanRobert Vincent Wortman, 87, of Findlay, Ohio, died at 5:50 a.m. on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at St. Catherine’s Care Center of Findlay.

Bob was born on December 3, 1927 in Findlay to Vincent and Marcella G. (Kaple) Wortman. He married Mary Lou Day on June 26, 1948 and she preceded him in death on August 28, 2013.

He is survived by his children, David (Debra) Wortman, Amy (Glen) Opp, John (Brenda Fox) Wortman, Jim (Cathy) Wortman, Sarah (Bryan) House and Paul (Maureen) Wortman; fourteen grandchildren; and thirteen great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by a son, Bill Wortman; two grandchildren, Miles Ryan Wortman and Scott Andrew Wortman; three sisters, Mary Lou Iler, Betty Wortman, and Barbara Adams; and one brother, Richard Wortman.

Bob was a 1945 Findlay High School graduate where he played football and basketball.

He served his country in the U.S. Army from 1945-1947. He then attended Findlay College from 1947-1951 where he played football, basketball and baseball.

He was a catcher in the Cleveland Indians baseball farm system from 1950-1954 playing in Green Bay; Spartanburg, S.C.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Reading, Pa. He was voted “rookie most likely to succeed.”

Bob was the owner of Wortman Insurance from 1953-1986. He had a career in the NFL as an official spanning the years 1964-1992. He held the field judge position and was privileged to officiate at the 1972 and 1978 Super Bowls. Bob also was a Mid-Am basketball official from 1956-1981, officiating two consecutive Final Fours in 1975 and 1976; and was a supervisor in that conference from 1981-1984. From 1984-1988 he was a Big Ten Basketball supervisor.

Bob was in the first class of inductees into the Hancock County Sports Hall of Fame and was also inducted into the Findlay College Hall of Fame in 1972. He was an avid golfer and enjoyed volunteering at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield, Ohio, for many years. He was also involved in the PGA West.

His memberships included: B.P.O.E., 45 years; Findlay Country Club, 31 years; was a charter member of the Optimist Club; was involved in Findlay Youth Baseball from 1948-1973, and was the first president. Bob was a member of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church from 1927-1993 and was also a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Palm Desert, Calif.

Bob was a long-time resident of Findlay. He and Mary Lou resided in California for twelve years (1991-2002), and in Colorado for five years (2005-2010). For the past five years, Bob was a resident at Fox Run / St. Catherine’s Nursing Homes. The family would like to thank these facilities for their loving care.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Findlay Youth Baseball, P.O. Box 608, Findlay, OH 45839.


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?"