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Tony Corrente, the longest-tenured active NFL referee, is one of 8 retiring officials

Football Zebras exclusive

At least seven on-field officials and one replay official are retiring at the end of this season, says a memo circulated to the officiating staff according to two sources with knowledge of the memo’s contents. One of those eight officials is 27-year veteran referee Tony Corrente; his retirement is the ninth referee retirement in the last five seasons.

Corrente began officiating in 1971 as part of both the Long Beach and San Gabriel Valley Football Officials Associations in California. Following his high school officiating, he was hired to the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (Big West Conference) in 1981, and moved to the Western Athletic Conference in 1991. Corrente worked as a referee for his final 6 seasons in the Big West, and then restarted as a field judge in the WAC.

Corrente, 70, was hired by the NFL in 1995 as a back judge and was assigned the number 99. He was promoted to referee for the 1998 season, along with Ron Winter, to replace referees Dale Hamer and Gary Lane, who both moved back to their original positions. He worked 20 postseason games, which included 8 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 6 Conference Championships, and Super Bowl XLI. His last on-field playoff assignment was the 2019 AFC Championship Game between the Titans and Chiefs, and he is eligible to receive another playoff assignment, which would be his 21st, this postseason. His final regular season game is between the Panthers and Buccaneers on Sunday.

Corrente was faced with a test of courage and strength in 2011 when he experienced a bout with throat cancer. Following the Week 1 game between the Steelers and Ravens, Corrente was knocked to the ground during a skirmish between the players, and after feeling pain following the game, he took ibuprofen to manage the pain. The ibuprofen thinned his blood, and the following morning, Corrente coughed up blood, which continued for over a week. After meeting with a nose and throat specialist, the physician diagnosed Corrente with throat and tongue cancer. He then underwent chemotherapy treatment and missed 4 games, but was able to return to finish the 2011 season, and was even assigned to officiate a Wild Card Playoff game between the Lions and Saints.

Corrente resides in La Mirada, Calif., and worked as a history and social sciences teacher and baseball coach at La Mirada High School, before retiring in 2011. Upon his retirement from education, Corrente was hired as the coordinator of football officiating for the Pac-12 Conference, a role he held for over 3 seasons before his resignation from that post in October 2014, due to “personal and professional reasons.” Several former referees said Corrente’s concerns were unheeded, which were first manifested publicly when it was disclosed that a business executive with the conference inserted himself into a replay decision. An independent audit suggested some minor changes to the replay functions, but did not recommend any significant reforms.

Corrente is the last referee from the 1990s and the last active referee hired by director of officiating Jerry Seeman.

7 other officials retiring

Corrente’s retirement will thrust another official to the ranks of the white hat, and will be the ninth new referee in the last five seasons. Along with Corrente, Football Zebras has confirmed that six other on-field officials and one replay official will also be retiring at the end of the season.

         Yrs 2021 crew College Positions Postseason
R 99 Tony Corrente 27    Cal State-Fullerton BJ 1995-97, R 1998-2021 8 WC, 5 DIV, 6 CC, XLI
DJ 134 Ed Camp 22 Hochuli William Paterson HL/DJ 2000-21 4 WC, 7 DIV, 2 CC, LIII
LJ 84 Mark Steinkerchner 28 Torbert Akron LJ 1995-2021 3 WC, 14 DIV, 1 CC, XXXVII, XXXIX
FJ 3 Scott Edwards 23 Blakeman Alabama FJ 1999-2013, ’16; SJ 2014-15, ’17-21 3 WC, 11 DIV, 3 CC, SB50, LII
FJ 80 Greg Gautreaux 19 (swing) SW Louisiana FJ 2002-14, ’17-18; SJ 2014-15, ’17-21 5 WC 1 DIV, 2 CC, XLIII
FJ 73 Joe Larrew 19 Martin St Louis SJ 2002-16, FJ 2017-19, ’21 5 WC, 1 DIV, 2 CC, XLVII
FJ 22 Steve Zimmer 25 Boger Hofstra BJ 1997, FJ 1998-2021 2 WC, 14 DIV, 1 CC, XL, LIII
RO    John McGrath 5 Corrente Kentucky HL 2002-16, RO 2017-21 3 WC, 3 DIV, XLIV*

*not including replay.

Among the seven on-field officials, they account for 163 combined years of service to the NFL, as well as 112 combined postseason assignments, which include 10 Super Bowls. These officials could add to those totals in this upcoming postseason. [Updated postseason totals for Steinkerchner (wild card) and Camp (conference championship) for the 2021 postseason.]

As the regular season was nearing its end, there were rumors in officiating circles that a mass exodus of officials could lead to upwards of 17 new officials being introduced for the 2022 season. That figure would tie the greatest number of new officials for a season since 1950 (not including the hiring spree for the inaugural American Football League season); in 1978, 17 officials were hired when the side judge position was created.

This may not represent the final list of departures, as officials begin to take stock over their careers in the offseason or as nagging injuries start sending signals to retire. We also cannot rule out some other officials may either be fired or “volun-told” to retire, but seeing as we are at 7 on-field officials, the officiating department isn’t likely to let any additional officials go. But it is possible that this list will grow as we enter the offseason.

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Cameron Filipe
Cam Filipe is a graduate student at Boston University and has been involved in football officiating for ten years. Cam is entering his second season as a high school football official. This is his seventh season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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