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Happy May 15: This officiating new year is unlike any other

The NFL’s officials are back in season, but an uncertain offseason looms.



May 15 has arrived. No, it’s no ordinary Friday — May 15 is the first day of the officiating new year. As of today, the roster of NFL officials are now “in season”. The officiating staff goes into a “dark period” after the Super Bowl as a way for the officials to have uninterrupted time at their other occupations, as a trade off for the inconveniences during the season. The dark period is mandated by the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the officials’ association. 

The first sign of the new year for NFL officials is the receipt of “Memo #1” in their e-mail inbox from senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron, who is entering his fourth season at the helm. However, this season, that memo will be unlike any other. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our national and global community, many aspects of an officiating new year are still to be determined.

Typically, “Memo #1” includes the introduction of the new rules for the upcoming season, an open-book rule test, and a formal welcome for the new officials who have joined the roster this year. This year, the rule change proposals have still not been voted on, and will not be addressed by the league and the club owners until the end of May.

The officiating mini-clinic, which precedes the main clinic held in Dallas in July, has been cancelled due to social gathering restrictions. The status of the main clinic, which is two months away, is still unknown. First-year officials are missing out on in-person meetings which help bring the roster together and help to grow camaraderie within the 17 crews.

A lot of questions remain unanswered at this point. Will the NFL officials and the executives at Art McNally Gameday Central meet virtually in the coming weeks? Although the NFL schedule has been released, will it remain in its current state, and how will officiating crews be impacted? We live in a society where we demand answers, especially now, but this is a time to let each day come and keep our ears to the street on the fate of the 2020 NFL season.

The zebras are back in season, and we hope to see them grazing football fields safely this fall.

Leaving the field

      Yrs College Occupation
R 66 Walt Anderson 24 Texas former college officiating coordinator, retired dentist
U 44 Jeff Rice 25 Northwestern attorney
DJ 90 Mike Spanier 21 St. Cloud State middle school principal
LJ 18 Byron Boston 25 Austin tax consultant, Southland Conference officiating coordinator

New officials

      ODP years Conference/League Notes
U 161 Tab Slaughter 3 Big 12 XFL center judge, AAF umpire
DJ 166 Frank LeBlanc 2 Big 12 2019 Big 12 Championship
LJ 150 Michael Dolce 2 Big Ten XFL down judge
FJ 143 Joe Blubaugh 2 Big 12 2017 National Championship
SJ 139 Tra Blake 1 ACC XFL and AAF referee
SJ 171 Clay Reynard 4† Pac-12 XFL and AAF side judge

Shown with position, uniform number while in the Officiating Development Program, and number of years in the Programs.  †4 non-consecutive seasons in ODP.

Promoted to referee

      Yrs§ Prev. Pos College Occupation
R 130 Land Clark 3 Field Judge Sevier Valley Tech chief building official

§includes 2020 season

Cam Filipe is a forensic scientist and has been involved in football officiating for 12 years. Cam is in his fourth season as a high school football official. This is his ninth season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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