The Senior Bowl provides an opportunity for scouts to evaluate potential talent for the upcoming draft in a game played largely under NFL rules. The NFL officiating department also uses this as an opportunity to evaluate potential new officials as well.
Since the demise of NFL Europe, the league has lost the ability to develop new officiating prospects outside of their college games. In the 2012 collective bargaining agreement with the officials union, the NFL will bring in college officials under its Advanced Development Program. Under the program, 21 officials are brought in to work with NFL officials through training camp and get on-field experience in a preseason game. In the summer of 2016, the program expanded to 31 officials, although not all get an on-field assignment.
The 2017 development squad will not be announced for a few months, but the Senior Bowl gives some insight as to who is under consideration. The Senior Bowl officiating roster includes the following ():
|ADP seasons||2016 conference|
|LJ||Maia Chaka||2014-16||Conference USA|
|SJ||Reggie Smith||2016||Big 12|
|BJ||Don Willard||2016||Big Ten|
The crew utilizes an eighth official, however it is not the center judge used by the NCAA, but instead it is a middle judge, which the NFL has been testing in preseason games. The umpire is positioned in the offensive backfield, as has been the case in the NFL for the last five years.
Chaka would be vying to be the second permanent female official by the NFL, after Sarah Thomas was hired as a line judge in 2015.
The game will follow the Pro Bowl rules which largely are aimed at player safety. Notably, there is only a kickoff at the beginning of the first and third quarters under special rules. All other possessions that would start with a kickoff begin with a snap at the 25-yard line. The end of each quarter terminates the possession in progress, and the team that takes the opening snap of the quarter alternates each quarter.
The extra-point conversions follow the NFL rules for snap location. Additionally, all touchdowns scored in the second quarter can only attempt a 2-point conversion as a sponsor tie-in to Reese’s Go For Two promotion.