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ND official: Replacement refs put in an unfair spot

FARGO -- Jim Harty can sympathize with the NFL replacement officials.

It's not a job he would take if asked under the current climate.

"As much as we all like to say the NFL would be the ultimate game to be officiating, under these circumstances, I think I would have had to say 'no' to it," said Harty, who has been a football official for more than 20 years.

Harty, from Jamestown, works high school and college football games in the region. He is on an officiating crew that regularly calls games in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, which is considered one of the top conferences in NCAA Division II.

"If we would take our college crew to go out there and try to do an NFL game, that would have been awfully, awfully difficult, almost impossible," Harty said.

The scrutiny on the NFL replacement officials hit a fever pitch Monday night when the Seattle Seahawks scored a controversial touchdown as time expired to earn a 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

The replacements have been put in an unfair spot, Harty said.

Mike Nevin, the football officials' coordinator for the NSIC, agrees. Nevin was a football official for 35 years, including Big Ten experience.

"This is a tough job to do for guys who have never been exposed to that," Nevin said. "I think they're doing the best they can under the conditions."

According to reports, most of the NFL replacement officials are coming from Division III, NAIA or high school ranks. So not only is the NFL game faster for those officials, the rules are different from those other levels.

Harty said he attended a summer rules clinic and talked with an NFL official about the variances between the college and NFL rules.

"They told me the rules differences are enormous, and all those guys have come from the NCAA up to the NFL," Harty said.

Nevin said none of his NSIC officials have left to be an NFL replacement.

Valley City State head football coach Dennis McCulloch said his team is getting the same NAIA officials to work games as in the past.

"We haven't seen any of that where we would say we have lost officials or it has been a struggle for us," McCulloch said.

Harty thinks the NFL replacements have done an admirable job under the circumstances. He also pointed out that the replay official, who upheld the late Seattle touchdown, was not a replacement.

"Overall, I don't think they've done so poorly, but they didn't really have a chance," Harty said of the NFL replacements. "And now they are under the microscope so much. I sympathize with them. I can't believe they're having a lot of fun."

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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