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2019 officiating season underway with 6 new officials and 3 new referees

As of now, officials are now “in season” as preparation begins for the centennial season.



There’s no ball drop, no champagne toasts at midnight, and it’s not even a holiday, but May 15 is New Year’s Day to NFL officials. 

In fact, the only fanfare that indicates this is any day but normal is 124 NFL officials are expected to receive “Memo #1” in their e-mail from senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron.

As of now, officials are now “in season” as preparation begins for the centennial season. Other than the 24 full-time officials (more accurately, these are year-round officials), the officiating staff goes into a dark period after playoff assignments are handed out. This allows officials to have uninterrupted time at their other occupations, as a trade off for the inconveniences during the season. The dark period is specifically mandated by the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the officials. 

In the first memo, officials will be brought up to speed on the new rules enacted in March, although all of the technical parameters and interpretations are usually not quite hammered out at this point. There will also be an open-book rules test, particularly centered around the new rules, with questions usually couched in complicated scenarios like multiple fouls and/or turnovers. There will also be a formal welcome of 6 new officials and a word of thanks for 4 who retired. Additionally, it is expected that officials will receive more information on the logistics of the reconfiguration of the replay booth.

It appears that there will be a bench of 3 swing officials who will be rotated into various crews through the season, maintaining one on the line of scrimmage and one in a deep wing position, while adding a swing umpire this year.

The officiating season begins with Super Bowl referee John Parry leaving for ESPN, the second consecutive season the Super Bowl white hat has retired. In addition, Walt Coleman will not take the NFL field for the first time since the Reagan administration, and the stalwart 22-year veteran Pete Morelli has also retired, continuing a precipitous drain of talented senior referees.

Although there are still three officials that will be debuting at the referee position, Riveron must be hoping for a normal start to his third season at the helm of the officiating department. His first season came right after the abrupt departure of Dean Blandino, and last year he had two referees defect to network television in June, long after the season preparations began.

Leaving the field

      Yrs College Occupation
R 65 Walt Coleman 30 Arkansas dairy processor manager
R 132 John Parry 19 Purdue financial adviser
R 135 Pete Morelli 22 St. Mary’s retired high school principal
DJ 22 Steve Stelljes 17 Friends business planning manager
DJ 94 Hugo Cruz* 4 Texas-Pan American investment manager

*Fired during the 2018 season.

New officials

      ODP Yrs Conference/League Notes
U 77 Terry Killens 6† American Athletic former NFL player; AAF official
DJ 106 Patrick Holt 1 Big Ten 2017 Big Ten Championship, 2017 National Championship; AAF official
LJ 37 Tripp Sutter 1 Big Ten 2016 Sugar Bowl, 2018 National Championship; AAF official
FJ 42 Nate Jones 6† Pac-12 former NFL player; AAF official
SJ 107 Dave Hawkshaw 3‡ Canadian Football League 2017 Grey Cup
SJ 82 Jimmy Russell 2 SEC 2017 Orange Bowl, 2018 Rose Bowl; AAF official

Shown with position, uniform number, and number of years in the NFL development programs.  †3 seasons in development program for former players. ‡3 seasons in the NFL-CFL joint development program.

Promoted to referee

      Yrs§ Prev. Pos College Occupation
R 1 Scott Novak 6 SJ (2014-16, 2018), FJ (2017) Phoenix sales manager
R 29 Adrian Hill 10 LJ (2010-13), FJ (2014-16), SJ (2017-18) Buffalo software engineer
R 126 Brad Rogers 3 FJ (2017-18) Lubbock Christian college professor

§includes 2019 season

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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