|GNAC referee Jeffry Davis|
We will be using this blog during the 2019-20 academic year to bring you profiles on the unsung heroes of GNAC athletic competition -- the referees, rules officials and officiating supervisors without whom the games could not occur.
These Q&A's are intended to heighten awareness for this critical aspect of amateur sports while celebrating the efforts of those individuals who are giving back to the game through the avocation of officiating.
This initiative is part of a comprehensive strategy by the NCAA DII Conference Commissioners Association to 1) bring attention to the crisis-level shortage of officials affecting amateur sports and 2) promote the benefits and rewards of officiating by implementing a national recruitment effort within the division.
For more information on how to become an official, we encourage you to visit the following links or reach out to your local officiating organization:
Now, on to our Q&A with GNAC football referee Jeffry Davis:
Name: Jeffry Davis
Years as an official: 27
Describe your competitive background in the sport of football.
I was an all-state tailback as a senior in high school in Montana. I led the league in rushing yards (1,400) and touchdowns (9). Overall, I was a three-year letterman and a two-year starter.
What was it that attracted you to the officiating world?
Football is the world's greatest sport and since I couldn't play any longer -- and didn't have the patience to coach -- officiating was the remaining option. It was also an opportunity to give back to the sport that taught me many life lessons.
What were the initial steps you took to pursue a career as an official?
I pursued officiating on my own. I knew I wanted to be involved with the game of football. I also knew I had the ability to physically keep up with the players and keen eyes to give the athletes a fair game.
What were the preparatory steps you first took to launch your officiating career?
I started out by taking classes in a local high school association. In parallel, I worked four to six Pop Warner games every Saturday that first fall. By the second year I was working high school games and learning more every game. Other necessary steps to be a good official requires a person to get physically fit which is most important in the off-season.
What do you remember about your first “real” assignment as an official?
I had been told by older officials to keep the whistle out of your mouth and the flag in your pocket. They said to just watch the game and learn where you need to position yourself to see the play. I was definitely nervous and worried that I would miss something and get yelled at by the coaches. As expected, the coaches were relentless but in the long run, an official needs that to succeed. I knew the mistakes I had made and wrote them down after the game so I could work on them for the next game.
What was it that prompted you to move into the intercollegiate ranks?
I hadn't thought about officiating at the college level until after a varsity high school game in which the evaluator, a well known Pac-10 official, told me I would be a great addition at the next level.
As an official in any sport needs to become a rules "expert,” what approach did you take to learning the rule book inside and out?
After 27 years, I am still learning things in the rule book. I haven't studied other sports' rule books but the football rule book is very complicated. Sometimes it requires you to go to several pages and put the puzzle together to assess what the correct ruling is. Reading the rule book is good, but starting on pre-season tests in February is the key to learning.
What are some of the things an official in your sport does throughout the year to stay up to date on the sport from an officiating perspective?
As a referee, I attend a national referees' conference in April every year. Here you are given the new rules for the year, along with any mechanics changes or editorial changes. You also attend breakout sessions on multiple topics learning from other referees and how they manage different subjects. Rules study with film is another thing done before the season starts. These start in February and last until an official attends their conference clinic.
Can you outline a typical officiating year in terms of the number of events you typically have on your calendar and the travel involved?
February: Local rules study groups two times per month with no travel. March/April: attend at least two local spring scrimmages with no travel involved. April: national referees' conference, two days with travel. July: conference clinic, two days with travel involved. September: three days of travel per week for nine weeks and one local game with no travel involved.
What have you found to be the biggest challenges as a college official?
The biggest challenge for me is leaving my family for three days each week during the season. They are very supportive but an official ends up missing out on some moments that can never be replicated or replaced.
Describe an aspect of college officiating that the average person or fan doesn’t realize?
I don't think people realize the hours that an official puts in to continue officiating. Besides the rules study and clinics that are attended in the off-season, there are also reports and videos that need to be completed or reviewed following each game.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in officiating?
The first step should be to talk to a current official to understand the time commitment that becoming an official takes. Once they understand the time away from home, the next step would be to observe a football game on the sideline watching the officials and not the football game. It puts the game of football in a whole new perspective and once you become an official, you will watch the game in a whole different view.
Previous GNAC Officiating Q&A's:
Previous GNAC Officiating Q&A's: