LOCAL/STATE The Michigan Daily -Thursday,N
.big Ten officials spend week preparing for Saturday
ovember 18, 1999 - 7A
Continued from Page 1A
The job now requires spending entire
weekends away from home. On Friday
nights, the crew reviews film of different
plays after dinner. Before the game on
Saturday there is breakfast and after the
*ame is more film. The schedule barely
allows for a round of golf Friday afternoon
when the weather is nice, but officials said
they still manage to squeeze in an occasion-
The preparation for the next week's game
begins while many fans are still recovering
from the affects of Saturday's game.
"I start thinking about football again
Sunday afternoon. I get home from church
and start watching tape from the gane the
day before and think, 'Now it's time to get
Beady for next week,"' said David Witvoet,
head referee for Saturday's game. "It's pret-
ty much Saturday through Saturday."
Because football is a part of the officials'
daily life it requires a enormous commit-
ment, not only from the official himself, but
also from the officials' families.
"It takes a lot of time. I use my personal
vacation to travel on Fridays, usually. That
means I'm taking 10 days of my vacation
that I could be using to spend with my fam-
, not to mention the weekends each fall
that I'm not home," Witvoet said.
"You have to have a love for it and you
also have to have a very understanding fam-
ily, good support at home. It has happened
where families haven't been supportive and
there have been break-ups in marriages over
officiating," Ransom said. "It's not all bad
though. Big Ten, officiating has been great
for my family. My family has been able to
enjoy a lot of things from football that they
*herwise would not have been able to enjoy.
y kids traveled with me for several years
when they were young and got to see all of
the Big Ten schools.
"When you are fortunate enough to get
scheduled for a post-season bowl game, your
family is included in that. Those trips have
been a highlight for a lot of our families but
they still have to be supportive," he said.
Officiating games isn't the only responsi-
bility of referees - they must deal with
Sher aspects of the game, including death
"There are some games, there could be
15,000 to 20,000 kids coming on the field.
You are one of seven guys with a striped
shirt and white knickers. All of a sudden you
become one against all of those people
depending on whether they won or lost,"
Ransom said. "It's difficult to get everyone
surrounded by security."
Despite the commitment officiating
requires - both physically and emotionally
- it's still only a side job for most referees.
While football may be running through their
minds during the week, most officials still
have to focus on other jobs.
Ransom is part-owner of a family-operat-
ed lumber store in central Indiana. Being
away from the store for a few days every
week could pose a problem for many people,
but he has a system in place.
"It creates some situations that make it a
little more of a hardship than I would like.
I'm lucky that I have a brother who is a part-
ner," Ransom said. "We have a good under-
standing that when football season is here,
it's my season. When football season is over,
it's his season."
Before he decided to become an official,
Bob Colburn was a high school teacher and
a coach. Now, in retirement, he said he lives
like a college student,
"I basically don't do anything. I get start-
ed about one in the afternoon," Colburn said.
"I used to coach high school and college
football and I decided that I didn't want to
go that route. I didn't want to have to go to a
clinic every January and try to find a job if
the head coach got fired and my wife didn't
want to do that either. Officiating was natur-
al for me because my father had officiated
forever - at 75 he was still an active high
school football official."
Saturday will be the fourth time in
Colburn's 20-year officiating career that he
will referee for the Michigan vs. Ohio State
battle as side judge. He said even though it's
a game he's worked before, it still carries a
lot of anticipation.
"It doesn't get any bigger than that. That
game, to me, is better than any bowl assign-
ment that I have had, it's a better game to
work," he said.
The officials are the first to say college
football excites them, but they are also quick
to point out that it isn't the teams that excite
them, but the game itself.
"You can get excited during a game
because a game gets exciting," Witvoet said.
"There are a lot of plays going back and
forth and it's fun.
"It's a fun type of excitement. It's not like
a fan gets excited, a biased type of excite-
ment, it's just fun being out there," he said.
For many fans, watching a game in
Michigan Stadium and being part of a crowd
that can exceed I11,000 in the largest col-
lege stadium in the nation is a memorable
experience, but for the officials, the same
games just don't stand out.
Officials said that stems from the week-
to-week practice of working in front of large
crowds and from the relatively tame nature
of fans in Michigan Stadium.
"Doing a game in Michigan Stadium isn't
really that different from other stadiums. It's
not an awesome structure, and they don't
make as much noise here as they do in other
stadiums," Colburn said. "I don't know if it's
because of the structure, but the noise does-
n't come onto the field like it does at Ohio
State, Wisconsin or Penn State. This place
seems to be less noisy than anywhere that we
"To me, Ohio Stadium is the most awe-
some facility that I have every worked in.
From the ground up it's all cement, here, it's
dug down in a hole. From the outside, this
stadium doesn't look like much, and if
someone didn't tell you that there are
110,000 people in there, I don't think that
you would know it," he added.
Even if the noise doesn't reach the same
decibel level as in other stadiums, officials
said they feel the wrath of the fans here just
as much as at other stadiums.
"Here they throw marshmallows. The stu-
dents bring the marshmallows to the game
and whether or not you are working a good
game, they are going to throw the marshmal-
lows," Colburn said.
"The craziest group though is Wisconsin.
I tell you though, they are having fun. They
will send some girl all the way around the
horseshoe, and she likes it so much that they
will send her back," he said. "Then they
have a cheer, where like Ohio has '0-H-T-
O', at Wisconsin it's 'Eat-Shit-Fuck-You'
and that's their cheer. They do that at least
twice every game that I've been to. They are
just a wild group."
Whether they're shouting profanities or
throwing projectiles, most fans don't actual-
ly attract the officials' attention. No matter
how loud the crowd yells, officials said they
are usually so busy with the game that the
cries of the fans go unheard. But on occasion
some fans manage to strike a chord with an
"When they're yelling at you, you are usu-
ally thinking, 'What idiots,"' Ransom said.
"Sometimes though, the things that the fans
say are so funny, you want to laugh, but you
have to keep a solemn face. You can't laugh
"We don't care who wins, and we are probably
the only seven guys in the stadium - out of
111, 000 - who don't care who wins.
-- Bob Colburn
Big Ten official
because of your position."
The team unity of the officials working
each game eases the pressure of fans and
other factors. None of the referees look at
themselves as one person, instead they said,
they think in terms of one unit that must
function properly for the game to be played.
"What's tough is that we're in the middle.
We don't care who wins, and we are proba-
bly the only seven guys in the stadium - out
of I11,000 - who don't care who wins,"
The officials said nearly every aspect of
refereeing the game is similar to actually
playing the game, whether it's moving on the
field or relying on a teammate.
"Each position has its own job to do, its
own area to cover. One guy can't cover it all
and if one guy falls down, we all fall down,"
Ransom said. "It's not like, 'Bob screwed it
up and I don't have to worry about it.' We're
seven guys out there and we either do well
together, or we don't do well together."
Fans, take note: Officials realize that they
make mistakes -just like players do.
"Not one of us has ever worked a perfect
game. You hope that if you did miss a call,
it's not the type of call that, in the eyes of a
lot of people, affected the outcome of a
game," Colburn said. "Any time that any of
us has blown a call, no one feels good about
Even when calls are missed and emotions
rage, officials said they still receive the
"All of us that are inside the white lines -
whether it be the players or the officials -
have a mutual respect for each other,"
Colburn said. "In 20 years, I can't ever recall
getting a nasty comment from a kid on the
field, even when he thinks that you blew it.
He may jump up and down, you can tell that
he thinks you blew the call but he's not going
to come up in your face."
While players are respectful, coaches can
be an entirely different case. Coaches berate
the officials as much on the field as fans see
watching a game at home. Not surprisingly,
former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler
had his share of run-ins with officials.
"I can remember one time, I'll try to cleanK
it up. There was a time when a call went
against Bo, and he was on the sidelines and
he made reference to the official who made
the call. He looked to the sky and said, 'Of
all the buttholes in the world, why did you
send me the biggest one today?,"' Colburn :
"Bo was a hard guy to get along with but
he is a really fun guy to be around, especial- ,
ly since he married this young woman. She
is very attractive, and she is a great person. L
asked Bo, 'How in the world can an ugly guy
like you get such a gorgeous wife?' he said,
'Bob, I always could recruit"'
It is not only the game that drives officials
in their weekend careers, but also everything
that goes along with it, especially the close
friendships that they have made along the
"Sometimes you have better friends here
than you do at home. The way that things are
set up today, you see as much of these guys
as your friends at home," Ransom said.
"You develop life-long relationships with
people from every state where there is a Big
Ten school," Witvoet said. "Football is a
weekend. You get to spend a weekend with
six other guys, there is a camaraderie among
The love of the game is probably more
important for the officials than it is for the
players or the coaches. There is no glory,
only pure enthusiasm to sustain them.
"No matter what game it is, or where it is,,
every game is exciting,"
Witvoet said. "College football is excit-
ing, the atmosphere surrounding college
football is special, there is nothing else like.
"The NFL can't even come close to.
matching what it's like to be on a college.
campus, it's just not the same," Colburn
said. "Being on a campus in the Big Ten con-
ference on a Saturday afternoon in the fall;
it's as good as it gets."
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