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They Earn It
December 02, 2010
By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

A painstaking and extensive, season-long evaluation process that grades every Big 12 Conference official on every play is used to select the officials that will work postseason games, including the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game Saturday.

Coordinator of football officials Walt Anderson, who oversees the Big 12’s officiating evaluation process, selected the championship game crew based on this season’s rankings and performance. David Warden, who coordinates and grades the replay crews, did the same to select the replay officials.

“It’s all based on performance and accountability,” Anderson said. “The Big 12 Championship game is the premier event of the season. They want it to represent the best of the best. We don’t select the officials based on tenure or that it’s their ‘turn’ to work the game. An official’s work over this season will earn him a spot in the championship game.”

The Big 12’s evaluation process involves 15 observers around the country who evaluate each game worked by a Big 12 crew. In a grading process that takes about six hours per game, the evaluators look at each camera angle available and break down the performance of the seven officials on each play.

“They’re looking at calls that are made, calls that aren’t made that should have been made, judgment calls – touchdowns, receptions fumbles,” said Anderson, who oversees 10 seven-man crews. “It’s an extensive process.

“The evaluators are also looking for proper mechanics. If an official is out of position, he might get the call right but if he’s out of position too often, eventually he’s going to make a bad call.”

The average college football game has 150 plays. On a Big 12 weekend with six games, that’s at least 900 plays that are evaluated. From each game, approximately 40 to 50 plays are sorted out for extra evaluation. Those plays go to Anderson, who not only grades the officials involved but he grades the evaluators to make sure they’re looking for the right things.

The officials get feed back from Anderson regarding their overall work and their decisions on the specific plays that Anderson views. It’s from all of this evaluation that officiating grades are compiled.

Another officiating evaluation aspect involves Big 12 coaches. Each week, conference coaching staffs submit video of plays that occurred in their games.

“People incorrectly assume that all the coaches do is complain, that coaches only send us plays involving calls they think we got wrong,” Anderson said. “Quite often, it’s a video of a play where they ask the question ‘Was this officiated correctly?’ because they’re interested in coaching their players the correct way so that they aren’t penalized.

“To the coaches’ credit, there’s a lot of that that goes on.”

The Big 12 will supply four officiating crews to work bowl games. Those officials also are selected based on this season’s grades. One of the crews will work a Bowl Championship Series game while the other three will be assigned to bowls by the NCAA. Those assignments will be made Sunday night. Officiating crews are not assigned to work bowl games with a participating team from their conference.
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