FIRST AND TEN
I lookaround and take it all in.
The sun is setting—as the song says—“across the skies with gorgeous dyes” on a cool, crisp fall evening in Indiana. I hear a small band and the noise of the crowd is building.
The players begin lining up in their assigned spots and provide encouragement to one another—a slap on the shoulder, a fist bump, a secret handshake. Some are jumping up and down in anticipation, others stroll in small circles like dogs preparing to lie down in the grass, while others just stand with their fists tightly clenched.
I watch as my own teammates do their last-minute duties, counting players, providing rule reminders, and checking alignment before each raises a hand to signal to me they’re ready. The band and the crowd now sound as if they’ve tripled in size.
Everyone is awaiting one thing: my signal. I raise my hand, my whistle shrieks, and I bring my hand down in a chopping fashion. The ball flies end-over-end in an arc as that sunset paints “in flashing glory.” The ball is caught and the ball-carrier runs toward the onslaught of opponents. I wind my arm to signal the clock to start.
This is the scene nearly every Friday night at 7 p.m. in the fall to kick off my next few hours in the middle of a high school football game as an official.
Yes. I’m one of those guys in the black and white stripes who everyone loves to blame.
Sports is one of my passions, and I’ve been a part of sports my entire life, as a player, a coach, a broadcaster, and now an official. And I enjoy officiating much more than I anticipated.
I encourage anyone passionate about sports to look into becoming an official. It’s not one of those things most people ever consider. But officiating is a chance to give back to sports, be part of a team that holds each other accountable, stay an integral part of the game, and meet some of the best people, including other officials, coaches, administrators, and players.
Wabash has dozens of alumni officiating football in central Indiana, including Steve Woods ’93 in the NFL and Tim Maguire ’86 in the Big Ten. This group even gets together for lunch a few times each year. Dave Parry ’57 was a longtime Big Ten and NFL official and later the national coordinator of college officials. And, if we look at sports beyond football, the number of Wabash officials is much higher.
Officiating aligns perfectly with the liberal arts and Wabash, so it’s easy to see why so many Wabash men take up the call.
Why? As officials, we need to communicate concisely and clearly, be resilient so that we are unaffected by those disagreeing with us, display confidence in our decisions, think critically, and lead effectively.
I wonder where we picked up those traits…
Steve Hoffman ’85 | Director,
Alumni and Parent Relations