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NFL to propose developmental league = more officiating opportunities

The NFL will propose a new developmental league to help train prospective players and provide opportunities for coaches, scouts and officials.

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The NFL announced this week that it will propose a new developmental league to help train prospective players and provide opportunities for coaches, scouts and officials.

For over several years the NFL helped sponsor a developmental league, first the World League of American Football (WLAF) and NFL Europe.

There are several questions surrounding a developmental league. When would the season be held? How many games a season? How many teams? How much will the NFL be willing to invest in the league? How much profit or loss will the NFL be willing to accept? Would fans support a league, since many think football is at the saturation point?

And, for purposes of this article, who will officiate the league?

If the season runs during the spring and summer, this would be an ideal opportunity for college officials and others in the Officiating Development Program  (ODP).  The officials would be free to continue calling games in college during the fall and NFL preseason games in the summer and not have to give up their college schedule.

This could also be the chance for the NFL to placate fan, coach and pundit demands and hire full-time officials. A 12- to 15-week developmental league season would give NFL officials 32 to 35 weeks worth of calling games — mitigating the argument that there aren’t enough football games for full-time officials. Would the NFL want to pay their officials full-time? Would the officials, many of whom are in well-paying “day” jobs, want to give up their full-time vocation and commit to the NFL?

The NFL officials may not have to work all developmental league games. They could travel with the crews and tutor/mentor the ODP officials, observe their games, and report to the NFL about the trainee’s prospects to be a full-time NFL official.

The NFL will want to have assurances about the financial viability of any developmental league before committing to a new enterprise. Officiating concerns will very likely be towards the bottom the list.

But, such a league can only help officiating.

Photo: ODP official Maia Chaka

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?"

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