How much money do NFL referees make? Salaries & pay structure for game officials in 2020 – Sporting News

The NFL naturally prefers to focus on the good that comes from its officiating department. According to the league, “game officials are typically accurate on 98.9 percent of calls.”

Regardless of whether that ambitious number is accurate, it’s the 1.1 percent of calls that are missed that make NFL viewers wonder how much the referees and other game officials are paid.

NFL officiating is a thankless job, but referees, umpires, down judges, line judges, field judges, side judges and back judges make pretty good money considering their pro football jobs are part-time gigs. For two years from 2017-18, the NFL had a program in place that made roughly 20 percent of its officiating roster full-time league employees. But that program was abandoned last year, so all 119 NFL game officials in 2020 are part-time employees.

MORE: Here are the NFL’s highest paid players in 2020

Because all NFL referees and officials are part-time employees, they’re forced into a dark period from the end of each season through mid-May. Of course, they’re essentially full-time workers during the season.

Some argue the NFL making all game officials full-time paid employees would improve the quality of the league’s officiating, with the theory being connected to the value of year-round training. Others argue full-time employment is not essential because the best way to perfect the craft of NFL officiating is in-game experience.

Below is everything else you need to know about how much money NFL referees and other game officials make in 2020, plus a complete roster of this year’s NFL officials and their on-field responsibilities.

How much money do NFL referees make?

The amount of money NFL referees and other game officials make is undisclosed, but we have a good idea based on the pay figures in the recently expired collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association.

NFL officials earned an average of $205,000 for the season in 2019. According to Football Zebras, the new CBA the league and the refs agreed upon last September included “a “substantial bump in game checks and an increased contribution from the NFL into 401(k) retirement plans.”

According to Money Magazine, that $205,000 average included “a base rate plus a certain amount of money per game.” Reports indicate the pay structure in the new CBA is set up the same way.

For what it’s worth, the average annual earnings ($205k) of NFL officials last year, the last of the previous CBA, was up from an average of $149,000 from the last year of the CBA that expired in 2011.

Referees naturally make the most among the seven positions of on-field officials, but the rest of the pay breakdown is unknown.

NFL referees, officials in 2020

The NFL in July announced its official roster of 119 game officials for the 2020 season. The roster includes three former NFL players in back judge Steve Freeman, field judge Nate Jones and umpire Terry Killens.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL game officiating crews in 2020 are assigned to games based on geography in an effort to limit travel. The NFL typically ensures that officials don’t work a game involving the same team more than twice in a season with usually at least six weeks between such games. Those guidelines are being waived this year.

Five on-field officials — Jeff Bergman, Steve Freeman, Greg Gautreaux, Joe Larrew and Tony Steratore — elected to take a leave of absence for the 2020 season amid the pandemic.

Below is the complete roster of all 119 NFL game officials for 2020.

No. Name Pos. College Crew Years of experience
122 Brad Allen R Pembroke State Allen 7
20 Barry Anderson U North Carolina State Allen 14
108 Gary Arthur LJ Wright State Martin 24
72 Michael Banks FJ Illinois State Clark 19
56 Allen Baynes SJ Auburn Hussey 13
59 Rusty Baynes LJ Auburn-Montgomery Boger 11
32 Jeff Bergman LJ Robert Morris Kemp 29
91 Jerry Bergman DJ Robert Morris Blakeman 19
33 Tra Blake FJ UCF Corrente 1
34 Clete Blakeman R Nebraska Blakeman 13
57 Joe Blubaugh FJ Pittsburg State Boger 1
23 Jerome Boger R Morehouse Boger 17
40 Brian Bolinger LJ Indiana State Clark 4
74 Derick Bowers DJ East Central Novak 18
98 Greg Bradley LJ Tennessee Hochuli 12
43 Terry Brown FJ Tennessee Wrolstad 15
11 Fred Bryan U Northern Iowa Martin 12
86 Jimmy Buchanan SJ South Carolina State Blakeman 12
134 Ed Camp DJ William Paterson Hochuli 21
63 Mike Carr DJ Wisconsin Kemp 4
60 Gary Cavaletto SJ Hancock Vinovich 18
41 Boris Cheek SJ Morgan State Corrente 25
51 Carl Cheffers R California-Irvine Cheffers 21
130 Land Clark R Sevier Valley Tech Clark 3
16 Kevin Codey DJ Western New England Torbert 6
95 James Coleman SJ Arkansas Hochuli 16
65 Walt Coleman IV LJ Southern Methodist Novak 6
99 Tony Corrente R Cal State-Fullerton Corrente 26
25 Ryan Dickson FJ Utah Torbert 4
123 Mike Dolce LJ Grand Valley State Allen 1
76 Alan Eck U Bloomsburg Hussey 5
96 Matt Edwards BJ Western Michigan Cheffers 3
3 Scott Edwards SJ Alabama Torbert 22
81 Roy Ellison U Savannah State Hill 18
61 Keith Ferguson BJ San Jose State Hill 21
64 Dan Ferrell U Cal State-Fullerton Corrente 18
71 Ruben Fowler U Huston-Tillotson Hochuli 15
88 Brad Freeman BJ Mississippi State Hussey 7
133 Steve Freeman BJ Mississippi State Kemp 20
80 Greg Gautreaux FJ Southwest Louisiana Blakeman 19
128 Ramon George U Lenoir-Rhyne Novak 5
103 Eugene Hall SJ North Texas Cheffers 7
49 Rich Hall U Arizona Kemp 17
107 Dave Hawkshaw SJ Justice Institute of B.C. Smith 2
93 Scott Helverson BJ Iowa Wrolstad 18
29 Adrian Hill R Buffalo Hill 11
125 Chad Hill SJ Mississippi Boger 3
97 Tom Hill FJ Carson Newman Hochuli 22
28 Mark Hittner DJ Pittsburg State Smith 24
83 Shawn Hochuli R Claremont Hochuli 7
106 Patrick Holt DJ North Carolina State Boger 2
35 John Hussey R Idaho State Hussey 19
36 Anthony Jeffries FJ Alabama-Birmingham Hill 3
117 John Jenkins FJ St. Mary’s Kemp 7
101 Carl Johnson LJ Nicholls State Hussey 17
42 Nate Jones FJ Rutgers Cheffers 2
67 Tony Josselyn BJ Eastern Kentucky Torbert 3
55 Alex Kemp R Central Michigan Kemp 7
77 Terry Killens U Penn State Torbert 2
121 Paul King U Nichols College Clark 12
21 Jeff Lamberth SJ Texas A&M Wrolstad 19
44 Frank LeBlanc DJ Lamar Institute of Technology Vinovich 1
2 Bart Longson LJ Brigham Young Smith 6
10 Julian Mapp LJ Grambling State Blakeman 12
19 Clay Martin R Oklahoma Baptist Martin 6
39 Rich Martinez BJ Canisius Hochuli 7
8 Dana McKenzie DJ Toledo Corrente 13
48 Jim Mello DJ Northeastern Allen 17
118 Dave Meslow FJ Augsburg Martin 10
78 Greg Meyer BJ TCU Clark 19
115 Tony Michalek U Indiana Rogers 19
111 Terrence Miles BJ Arizona State Novak 13
120 Jonah Monroe SJ Arkansas Novak 6
92 Bryan Neale U Indiana Smith 7
1 Scott Novak R Phoenix Novak 7
24 David Oliver DJ Baker Hill 4
124 Carl Paganelli U Michigan State Boger 22
105 Dino Paganelli BJ Aquinas Smith 15
46 Perry Paganelli BJ Hope Blakeman 23
17 Steve Patrick BJ Jacksonville State Vinovich 7
15 Rick Patterson FJ Wofford Allen 25
79 Kent Payne DJ Nebraska Wesleyan Rogers 17
131 Mark Pellis U Allegheny Cheffers 7
9 Mark Perlman LJ Salem Vinovich 20
6 Jerod Phillips DJ Northeastern State Martin 5
47 Tim Podraza LJ Nebraska Corrente 13
109 Dyrol Prioleau FJ Johnson C. Smith Smith 14
30 Todd Prukop BJ Cal State-Fullerton Corrente 12
5 Jim Quirk SJ Middlebury Hill 11
18 Clay Reynard SJ UC Davis Martin 1
31 Mearl Robinson FJ Air Force Vinovich 4
126 Brad Rogers R Lubbock Christian Rogers 4
82 Jimmy Russell SJ Pasco Hernando State Allen 2
50 Aaron Santi FJ Southern Oregon Rogers 6
45 Jeff Seeman LJ Minnesota Cheffers 19
104 Dale Shaw SJ Allegheny Kemp 8
113 Danny Short DJ UNC-Charlotte Cheffers 4
110 Tab Slaughter U Arkansas State Blakeman 1
14 Shawn Smith R Ferris State Smith 6
12 Greg Steed BJ Howard Rogers 18
84 Mark Steinkerchner LJ Akron Torbert 27
68 Tom Stephan DJ Pittsburg State Clark 22
112 Tony Steratore BJ California, Pa. Boger 21
75 Mark Stewart LJ Pittsburg State Hill 3
102 Bruce Stritesky U Embry Riddle Vinovich 15
37 Tripp Sutter LJ Nebraska Wrolstad 2
100 Tom Symonette LJ Florida Rogers 17
53 Sarah Thomas DJ Mobile Hussey 6
62 Ronald Torbert R Michigan State Torbert 11
13 Patrick Turner DJ Cal State-Long Beach Wrolstad 7
52 Bill Vinovich R San Diego Vinovich 15
26 Jabir Walker FJ Murray State Hussey 6
7 Keith Washington SJ Virginia Military Institute Clark 13
116 Mike Weatherford FJ Oklahoma State Novak 19
58 Don Willard SJ Illinois State Rogers 3
119 Greg Wilson BJ USC Martin 13
54 Steve Woods U Wabash Wrolstad 4
4 Craig Wrolstad R Washington Wrolstad 18
38 Greg Yette BJ Howard Allen 11

NFL referees & officials assignments

Each of the seven NFL officials on the field in a given NFL game have specific roles, watching different areas of the field and looking out for different kinds of penalties on a given play.

Below are the responsibilities of each official, via NFL Operations.

Lining up 10-12 yards behind the line of scrimmage in the offensive backfield, the referee is the white-hat wearing leader of the crew who signals all penalties and is the final authority on all rulings. Below are the referee’s assignments on run plays, pass plays and special-teams plays.

Run plays: Watches nap; follows QB until action moves downfield; then follows runner to determine forward progress and position of the ball; determines first downs or if a measurement is necessary.

Pass plays: Shadows QB from drop to release; drops back as the play starts and monitors offensive tackles; turns attention solely to QB as defense approaches; watches for roughing the passer; rules on intentional grounding; makes the decision whether a loose ball is a fumble or incomplete pass.

Special teams: Watches for running into/roughing the kicker.

Lining up next to the referee 10-12 yards behind the line of scrimmage in the offensive backfield, the umpire primarily watches for holding and blocking fouls. He or she also reviews player equipment, counts offensive players on the field and marks off penalty yardage. Below are the umpire’s assignments on run plays, pass plays and special teams-plays.

Run plays: Watches for false starts on offensive line; watches for illegal blocks by the offense or any defensive fouls at the line of scrimmage.

Pass plays: Watches for false stars on offensive line; on screens, turns attention to intended receiver to make sure he is able to run his route; watches for blocking penalties.

Special teams: Watches for any penalties.

  • Down judge

Lining up on the sideline and looking directly down the line of scrimmage, the down judge directs the chain crew, informs the ref of the down and rules on sideline plays on the nearest half of the field. Below are the down judge’s assignments on run plays, pass plays and special-teams plays.

Run plays: Watches for offside or encroachment; monitors sideline; determines when/if a runner is out of bounds; marks runner’s forward progress.

Pass plays: Watches nearest receiver for first seven yards of his route until he is clear the point of legal contact for defensive backs; watches for pass interference.

Special teams: Watches for offside and encroachment; rules on penalties involving blockers and defenders on trick plays.

  • Line judge

Lining up on the sideline opposite the down judge and looking directly down the line of scrimmage, the line judge has similar duties without the chain crew direction. Below are the line judge’s assignments on run plays, pass plays and special-teams plays.

Run plays: Watches for offside and encroachment; watches blockers and defenders on nearest side for penalties.

Pass plays: Watches for offside and encroachment on nearest side of field; follows nearest receiver for seven yards downfield; moves into offensive backfield to determine if pass is forwards or backwards; makes sure passer is behind the line of scrimmage when he throws the ball.

Special teams: Stays at line of scrimmage on punts to make sure only players on the ends of the line move downfield before the kick; rules on whether the kick crosses the line of scrimmage; watches kicking team for penalties.

  • Field judge

Lining up on the same sideline as the line judge but 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage in the defensive backfield, the field judge counts defensive players and watches wide receivers/defensive backs on the nearest side of the field. Below are the field judge’s assignments on run plays, pass plays and special-teams plays.

Run plays: Watches widest receiver’s blocking and looks for illegal use of hands or holding; determines if/when a runner on nearest side of the field goes out of bounds.

Pass plays: Watches widest receiver on nearest side of the field and makes sure he is able to run his route without interference; rules on whether a pass to nearest side of the field is incomplete; rules on whether a receiver is in or out of bounds when he makes a catch; watches for pass interference.

Special teams: Rules on blocking during punts; lines up under goal posts to rule on whether field goals and extra points are good.

  • Side judge

Lining up on the same sideline as the down judge but 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage in the defensive backfield, the side judge backs up the clock operator, signals to the ref when time expires for each quarter and counts defensive players. Below are the side judge’s assignments on run plays, pass plays and special-teams plays.

Run plays: Watches widest receiver’s blocking and looks for illegal use of hands or holding; determines if/when a runner on nearest side of the field goes out of bounds.

Pass plays: Watches widest receiver on nearest side of the field and makes sure he is able to run his route without interference; rules on whether a pass to nearest side of the field is incomplete; rules on whether a receiver is in or out of bounds when he makes a catch; watches for pass interference.

Special teams: Watches punt returner and any action around him; joins umpire in defensive backfield on field goal and PAT attempts; watches for penalties along the line of scrimmage.

  • Back judge

Usually lining up on the tight end’s side, the back judge is positioned 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage in the defensive backfield. The back judge keeps track of the play clock and all TV breaks, counts defensive players and focuses on tight ends and all the players on the end of the lines. Below are the back judge’s assignments on run plays, pass plays and special-teams plays.

Run plays: Watches tight end for illegal blocking or defensive penalties.

Pass plays: Watches tight end for illegal use of hands or defensive interference; rules on whether a receiver made a legal catch; determines who recovered a fumble.

Special teams: Rules on fair catches; lines up under goal posts to rule on whether field goals and extra points are good.

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