Happy birthday to former NFL official and league officiating supervisor Jim Daopolous, who just turned 75 years old.
Daopolous entered the NFL in 1989 as a field judge (at that time, the deep wing position was named back judge), and in his first game he immediately caught the eye of the Falcons aberrant head coach Jerry Glanville, who was wearing an NFL Films microphone during the game. Glanville, attempting to leverage a rookie official, launched one of the most famous lines in NFL Films history: “This is the en–eff–el, which means ‘not for long’ if you make them 🤬🤬🤬 calls. I’ll be selling groceries.”
Daopolous recounted the situation in the foreword of my book So You Think You Know Football?, “I stood my ground. I knew I was right.” It was an early test of character for an official: stand firm in the face of an acerbic coach or whither on the vine.
Daopoulos moved to the umpire position in 1996, and the following season earned the assignment to Super Bowl XXXIII; the Falcons were also there, but Glanville was not. In addition to the Super Bowl, he also worked 4 wild cards, 2 divisional playoffs, and 1 conference championship in 11 seasons.
As part of a leadership transition from Jerry Seeman to Mike Pereira as the head of officiating, Daopoulos moved into the league office after the 1999 season as an officiating supervisor. He donned his number 75 jersey for the last time in 2001 when an officials lockout — imposed due to a possible union strike threat — pressed him into duty for two games the first week of the season. The last game he worked was a Monday night game in Denver as the Broncos took on the Giants on September 10, 2001. Nine hours later, the entire world drastically shifted.
Pereira and director of officiating operations Larry Upson with Daopoulos lead the officiating department in transformative years in the dawn of the millennium. Not yet burdened by the barrage of social media and the heavy scrutiny down to the pixel level of every game coast-to-coast, the department emerged from the film-projection-on-a-bed-sheet meetings at the officials’ hotels on Saturdays to embracing new technology and a fledgling channel available on a smattering of cable systems known as NFL Network.
After leaving the league office, Daopoulos then was recognized by the football fans as more than the not-for-long guy. He had a few stints with NBC and ESPN in a mix of on- and off-air roles for a few years before retiring. He still continues to take calls from your humble scribe to discuss officiating and is a great friend.
We hear number 75 is celebrating his 75th on an extended tour of Greece. And that certainly beats selling groceries.