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2023 USFL playoffs

Larry Smith is the referee for the 2023 USFL Championship Game

A crew of spring-league veterans will officiate the second championship game of the new USFL.

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Referee Larry Smith has been chosen to lead the officiating crew for the 2023 USFL Championship game between the Birmingham Stallions and the Pittsburgh Maulers, which is scheduled to take place on July 1st at 8 p.m. in Canton, Ohio.

Smith, who is an assistant principal from Kansas City, Kansas, also works as a referee in the Big Ten conference. Prior to the 2023 USFL season, Smith worked the 2022 Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Kansas State. In 2020, Smith also headed the first all-Black football officiating crew in Power 5 football history.

Mike Pereira, the head of officiating for the USFL told Football Zebras that Smith was a natural choice. “Larry, he is my kind of referee. He doesn’t try to be the show. He is steady and consistent. I always feel like he is in control of his own emotions and the game itself. He is a steadying influence on his crew. I really feel he could work any game on any level.”

Smith has officiated with the USFL for both of its seasons, as well as the 2020 XFL and the 2019 Alliance of American Football. Smith was the alternate official in last year’s USFL championship game. He has also been selected to the NFL’s Mackie Development Program for the last four years.

Smith’s crew also has major spring pro league experience, with only one working his first spring season. Two officials on the crew, down judge Walter Flowers and side judge Frank Steratore, are working their final spring league game and will find themselves working NFL games in a matter of a few weeks.

Pereira emphasized that he is comfortable with all his officials being playoff ready.

“Getting to the championship game was not a competition,” he said. “Our goal when we started out [in 2022] was to select the best overall staff of officials and rotate the playoff assignments. We work together as a staff and not by individuals or crews. We are all in this together.”

“It is my hope that everyone that works in the USFL will get a playoff assignment at some point,” Pereira said.

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The officiating crew is listed with the number of seasons working in a pro league, their college conference, and their 2023 USFL officiating crew. Officials hired by the NFL are marked with a  and their pro experience is increased by 1. Postseason college games from 2022, including bowls, conference championships, and all-star games, are also listed for officials that worked on the field for those games.

      Pro League Yrs Conference / 2022 Bowls Crew
R 19 Larry Smith 4 Big Ten SUGAR  
U 20 Scott Walker 1 SEC Smith
DJ 58 Walter Flowers 3 ★ SEC SEC CHAMPIONSHIP Savoie*
LJ 2 Quentin Givens 4 Big 12 CITRUS LEGACY Smith
FJ 8 Glen Fucik 4 SEC L.A. SENIOR Smith
SJ 98 Frank Steratore 5 ★ Big Ten GATOR NFLPA Banks
BJ 37 Joe Johnston 3 Pac-12 PEACH Smith
ALT 27 Adam Savoie 4 ACC RELIAQUEST Savoie

*Flowers moves from line judge to down judge for this game.

Chris currently resides in Michigan and has been a sports official for over 30 years. By day, he works in research in the automotive industry. By night, when he isn't watching his kids play sports, he officiates high school football, softball, and basketball while nerding out on all things related to officiating.

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