As NFL referees continue collective bargaining with the NFL amid a lockout, the NFL has firmed up its plans for how to handle replacement referees if a deal is not negotiated in time for the beginning of the preseason schedule. In a memo obtained by SB Nation, the league spelled out its contingency plans to provide replacement officials should a deal not get completed.
Ron Baynes, the NFL's director of recruiting, sent a memo to league scouts asking them to contact officials that they felt might be interested in working as replacement officials. Baynes provided a list of officials they would suggest targeting. The list included two specific types of experiences the league would be looking for in replacement officials.
"1. An Official who have recently retired from a successful career in College officiating and is still physically able to officiate at a high level of competency.
"2. Lower division college officials, professional league officials and semi-professional league officials whose window of opportunity for advancement has pretty much closed but who have the ability to work higher levels but just got overlooked."
The NFL had confirmed contingency plans to hire replacement officials, but this memo provided the first official details of what they were looking for in these replacement referees. While football referees at any level know the basics of the game, nothing can prepare an official for the speed of the NFL. When NFL rookies are asked about the biggest difference between college and the NFL, the first thing they talk about is the speed of the game.
Here is the memo in its entirety:
To: 2012 NFL Scouts
The NFLRA and the NFL are in negotiations for a new CBA for the coming years. As of this date they have not come to a satisfactory agreement. Both sides are still working very diligently in an effort to avoid an officiating work stoppage. Efforts are being made to avoid a repeat of the 2001 season but as of today neither side has been able to come to a satisfactory agreement. Negotiations are ongoing. The NFL has a responsibility to the game and its fans to make sure the 2012 season will go on as planned. Thus, a contingency officiating replacement plan is being initiated. This plan is a contingency plan only and hopefully all issues will be resolved before replacement action is taken.
As part of the contingency plan, I am asking you scouts to contact officials that you feel might be interested in working as a replacement officials should there be a strike or lockout and have them contact me for an application. Listed below are the group of officials we suggest targeting:
1. An Official who have recently retired from a successful career in College officiating and is still physically able to officiate at a high level of competency.
2. Lower division college officials, professional league officials and semi-professional league officials whose window of opportunity for advancement has pretty much closed but who have the ability to work higher levels but just got overlooked.
3. All applying officials should be in good health and look the part of a fit and capable official.
4. All applying officials should be in a position to give their full officiating attention to the NFL without conflict from other officiating commitments.
5. All applying officials should be coachable and be prepared to participate in comprehensive training program. The officials will be compensated for their training time.
6. All applying officials should be of impeccable character and able to pass an extensive background check as part of the acceptance to work.
7. All applying officials will be required to provide a statement from their personal physician certifying that the official is in good health and capable of handling the physically expectations that are inherent to their officiating responsibilities.
An interested official should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and identify themselves as being an official that is interested in working for the NFL should there be a work stoppage. Please take note that at this time we are only gathering names of interested officials. Applying will not guarantee that an officials will be chosen nor does it bind the official to a absolute commitment to work. The application is to just express possible interest should there be a work stoppage. After we have accumulated our list of potential replacements, we will interview and investigate applicants and then select those that we feel will best meet our needs. As I sated earlier, negotiations are ongoing and should the two sides reach an agreement in the near future, there will be no need to hire additional officials. This is a contingency plan to make sure the NFL season will continue on schedule as planned.
Your job as scout is to get this information out to officials in your area and give them the opportunity to decide for themselves if they would like to make application. You are not being asked to persuade officials in any way to accept or not accept. Just provide the information to those that fall into the targeted group and let them decide for themselves.