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Big turnover with Big 12 referees

The Big 12 will have several new referees starting in 2020.



The Big 12 Conference features exciting, up-tempo college football with teams in the national championship hunt almost every season. The conference needs good officials — especially good referees.

Greg Burks, supervisor of officials, had a big challenge this offseason. He had to replace four referees.

Cooper Castleberry (19 years), Mike Defee (14 years) and Eddy Shelton (nine years) all retired.

Replacing 42 cumulative years of referee experience is difficult enough, but the Big 12 lost one more referee, but not to retirement.

Reggie Smith, a resident of Pennsylvania, left the Big 12 to become a referee in the Big Ten, replacing the retiring Dan Capron. Smith’s move makes sense as he lives in the Big Ten geographic foot print.

This creates an opportunity for established Big 12 referees like Brandon Cruse, Scott Campbell and David Alvarez to move up the ladder and work New Year’s Day bowls and conference championship games. 

Congratulations to Defee, Castleberry and Shelton on their retirements and best wishes to Smith as he works in the Big Ten.

The new referees

The Big 12 is the lead conference in an officiating consortium with the Mountain West and Southland conferences. Two new Big 12 referees come from the Mountain West. Burks promoted one from the Big 12 ranks and he hired one away from the Pac-12 Conference.

The new Big 12 referees are:

  • Tuta Salaam. He formerly was a Big 12 side judge. He worked the 2019 Orange Bowl and the Big 12 championship game. He is also a member of the NFL Officiating Development Program (ODP).
  • Michael Vandervelde. He formerly was a Mountain West referee who worked the 2019 Military Bowl. 
  • Kevin Hassell. He formerly was a Mountain West referee who worked the 2019 Cure Bowl.
  • Kevin Mar. He formerly was a Pac-12 referee who worked the 2018 Senior Bowl and was in the ODP in 2017. Mar also spent time in the Mountain West and Big 12 before going to the Pac-12 as a white hat.

Congratulations to the four officials who are now Big 12 referees. 

Now, let’s hope there is a 2020 season for them to work!

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?"