By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
When COVID-19 hit the country and put a dent in conference football schedules everywhere it effected the officials also. They had to sit and wait be ready to go when the season took off.
This year they stayed sharp with rules and mechanics visually. “Zoom was our biggest form of communication,” said David Coleman supervisor of officials for the PAC-12 at Media Day. “That’s one way we keep our officials sharp we have to keep the lines of communication open and prepare the season in the best way possible.”
Coleman who previously worked in the NFL while there he help create the NFL Official Developmental program for that helped officials in the Power-Six Conferences to prep them for the next level. While there he has worked Merton Hanks who is now head of Football Operations for the PAC-12.
He also spent 22 years in the Army and reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and served under Colin Powell at one time.
Since taking the position, Coleman has given the PAC-12 officials diet and exercise programs that help the stay be ready for the physical and mental demands of the college game.
In the shortened 2020 season Coleman and the PAC-12 assembled an All-Black Crew together in a game for the first time in the history of the PAC-12 Conference. The crew worked at the Rose Bowl as UCLA took on Stanford.
He believes in accountability, transparency- At this level you are responsible for your call on the field. It’s not only getting the call right its knowing why and what could be the variant if there is one.
Coleman is in his seventh year at the helm and two of the years PAC-12 crews have earned their way to the National Championship game.
“When an official earns his way to the title game that gives them a great sense of self accomplishment inside,” added Coleman.
No matter what conference there’s always criticism. Fans coaches and administrators always think they are getting “jobbed”.
When you look at the game it’s not the officials that false starts on fourth and one with fifty thousand screaming people that force a team to punt or go for the field goal.
Last season among teams that played at least six games USC had the most penalty yards in the PAC-12 with 476 averaging 71 yards a game in penalties. They were followed by UCLA as they averaged the same 7 a game for 354 yards a 53.4 yards per game avg. The Bruins had a lot of five yarders.
Colorado and head coach Carl Dorrell had averaged the fewest with 5.7 per game and 338 total yards.
In the SEC the first six games last season Vanderbilt’s 7.6 was the most penalized team while Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin were the least with 5.2 per game.
Rice was the least penalized team in the country 3.4 per game followed by Coastal Carolina 3.6. That helped coach Jamey Chadwell and the Chanticleers finish the season 11-1 (8-0 Sun Belt) with wins over Kansas and BYU.
There’s no question the fewer penalties increase your chance to win a game. Officials have missed targeting calls, pass interference calls that have changed a game. However, over 90 percent of the calls made are the correct ones.
You can’t always blame the officials. But there are cases no matter what it’s the officials. Some years back I was on the sideline at the L.A. Coliseum where Notre Dame was taking on USC. Every big play USC threw to All-American WR Dwayne Jarrett. Most catches were for first downs in front of Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis. “He’s out of bounds how can you make that call,” shouted Weis to the officials.
Jarrett caught another one headed towards the sideline headed out in clear control of the ball. “He’s bobbling the ball,” shouted Weis with anger. The Irish coach called a time out and talked to the official the entire timeout while assistant coaches addressed the team.
Jarrett finished the night with 7 receptions for 132 yards in a 44-24 Trojan win. Even though there obviously were no fouls Weis had to put the blame on someone.
The game has not changed that much since. Some of today’s coaches are different and some question all. The biggest thing with most coaches they want communication they want the who, the what and the why’s answered, most of the time when that’s done there is some satisfaction.
There’s one thing for sure the PAC-12 football officials will be ready for the upcoming season.
“Coaches are unique,” said Coleman. “They always try to get an edge.”