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Monitoring officials in the NFL

What I've been talking about, in a great story by Judy Battista in today's NY Times. It's no surprise that the NFL takes it seriously.

Mike Pereira is the NFL's Vice President for officiating. Here's where he spends his Sundays: the league'’s officiating control center, a darkened room with flickering images of games on 10 high-definition televisions and a floor-to-ceiling projection screen. For the N.F.L., the control room is a boisterous nerve center that serves as a vital link between the big business of pro football and the credibility of the games.

No 13 inch sets with rabbit ears here, as described by Selena Roberts for the Oklahoma-Oregon game.

The control room is located past a "Zebra X-ing" sign and not far from Pereira'’s corner office, which is decorated almost exclusively with black and white stripes and includes a marionette of an official. In the control room, each game is watched by someone listening on headphones and taking copious notes concerning all player-discipline penalties and all instant-replay challenges.

Games are digitally recorded so that every fumble, every injury, every step out of bounds can be reviewed in excruciatingly slow motion.

Game day is just the beginning. In the following week each game is reveiwed, play by play, and every official is graded, position by position.

The NFL has the organizational structure and the incentive to produce efficient monitoring and evaluation of officiating. I draw two implications from this. First, major college conferences should copy and implement crucial elements of this system. The college system can improve. Second, if the NFL's concern with performance evaluation extends to training and selection of those who officiate the games (and I have no basis for thinking otherwise), then officiating in the NFL is probably as accurate and efficient as humanly possible.