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College Football Officials Hold Annual Meeting

Irving—Since 2013, officiating coordinators from every college football conference have gathered at the National Football Foundation (NFF) office in Irving for their annual meeting. After having their 2021 meeting virtually, in-person meetings resumed the week of Jan. 25, 2022.

“The collegiate conferences invest heavily and work tirelessly to ensure officiating proficiency, and the coordinators of each conference comprise the key group of dedicated professionals who care deeply about officiating success,” Steve Hatchell, NFF president & CEO, said in a press release. “We are delighted to again host their important meeting. They truly care about the game.”

But nobody was happier over resuming in-person meetings than College Football Officials (CFO) coordinator Steve Shaw.

“From when the pandemic started, we had been totally virtual,” Shaw said. “This was the first time we got everybody back together, and it was good. There are a lot of things you can do virtually, but it’s good when you have everybody back.

“When you have everybody face-to-face, it’s easier to watch video and to communicate with one another. We meet at the National Football Foundation. They’re great hosts. They do so much for the game, and we appreciate them.”

Shaw has been coordinator of the CFO, founded in 2008 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Collegiate Commissioners Association, since 2020.

The conference coordinators, Shaw, and Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference who also serves as chairman of the CFO board of managers, discussed how the recently concluded 2021 season had gone in terms of officiating, a process which included speaking about any rule changes the various conferences had proposed.

“Our game is such a national game now, the CFO’s goal is to ensure all our conferences are working together from the standpoint of the same rule interpretations, same [officiating] mechanics, same philosophies,” Shaw said. “The game can’t look different in one conference versus another.”

It was a productive several days for everyone involved.

“We’re hopeful as we look toward our spring clinics and developmental clinics to get back to a face-to-face world. Obviously, COVID will dictate that,” Shaw said. “But right now from a planning perspective, we’re really going back to face-to-face clinics and that sort of thing, being smart and making sure that the COVID world is going to cooperate. Our hope is to get beyond the pandemic.

“There were a lot of bad things from the pandemic, but there was some great learning around what all you can do in a virtual world with crews together and that sort of thing. We’ll hopefully take the best of what we’ve learned in this virtual world and marry it up with face-to-face clinics, camps, and meetings. The goal will be to come out better on the back end for all of this.”

One subject discussed during the meeting was the CFO continuing to attract new faces to officiating. Shaw even offered some sage advice to any current officials who aspire to one day call games at the collegiate level.

“The first thing I would tell them is go find a mentor,” Shaw said. “Find somebody that’s working college football where you want to work and link with them. That mentor can help them navigate what camps and clinics to go to, [figure out] how you get yourself noticed.

“It’s probably harder to go from a high school official to a college official at any level, because there are so many high school officials that want to do that. Getting your name, your brand, out there is one of the hardest things to do.

“There are so many camps and clinics available to show you where to learn and develop yourself. The other thing is to improve yourself, watch video. There’s so much video available today from an officiating perspective, other people working games. Video is the best way to improve.”

Shaw said the CFO will continue to monitor the latest developments in the pandemic and adjust its spring schedule, which includes clinics for its members, accordingly.

However, he remains proud of how the organization and its members responded positively to the pandemic.

“We had a high percentage of our officials get fully vaccinated. There was a huge incentive to do that, because once you were fully vaccinated, you didn’t have to do the weekly tests,” Shaw said. “We’re going to continue to watch the environment and see where we go. The last thing we want to do is do something that wouldn’t be appropriate and put our officials at risk of getting COVID or whatever.”