Football

Football officiating crew retires after quarter century together

2012-11-19T22:57:00Z 2012-11-20T06:47:03Z Football officiating crew retires after quarter century togetherJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

In basketball, it's five-on-five.

In football -- for these guys -- it was five-on-22.

Now after a quarter century together, the high school officiating crew of Bob Parker, Rick Parker, Bob Modrowski, Rick Stanford and Dave Koester have for the most part made their last calls.

"It was something we decided several years ago," said Schererville resident Koester, who was the line judge of the quintet. "It wasn't where we could be like Brett Favre and announce our retirements at the last second. Games are often contracted years in advance, so we pretty much had this planned out to do this now."

Sheridan's 35-14 regional victory over North Miami on Nov. 9 was the crew's final game.

"We all knew we weren't getting any younger, and the game has gotten so much faster," said Koester, who got into officiating 34 years ago after his father was a football official for 20 years. "Before, there were only four-man crews, but then teams began to pass more and that (really) spread the game out and gave us a lot more to cover."

While covering it together for such a long time, Koester said that he and his fellow crew members developed a sense of telepathy between each other.

"Sometimes it's simple eye contact between me and (linesman) Bob Modrowski, and we can tell what other has saw or didn't see," Koester said. "We've learned how to communicate with a lot of non-verbal cues."

Though the crew has molded into a solid band of brothers while calling a total of four state championships together, most of them were complete strangers before getting involved in football.

"Bob (Modrowski), Rick (Stanford) and I didn't know each other before getting grouped together," said referee and crew chief Bob Parker, of Schererville. "Around 1987, Dave became a part of our crew. Then three years later, my younger brother (Rick) joined us after he finally wanted to do some legitimate work.

"That's a joke, you know."

Bob Parker, an attorney, originally wanted to become a baseball umpire after a shoulder injury sustained while he was in law school hampered any pending athletic endeavors.

"But while I was in the process of getting certified for baseball, I saw that there was a need for football officials," Parker said. "So I thought maybe I could work football to hold me over until baseball season."

Parker will continue to help train upcoming officials for the Lake County Athletic Officials Association, and may work a couple of games with them next season to assist in them in the learning process.

Parker also helped develop his own crew with periodic tests and quizzes that kept them abreast of obscure rules and how to make the right call(s) during uncommon game scenarios.

"For instance, a punt returner tries to field a punt but it goes through his arms and bounces into the end zone," Koester explains. "Most people think that's a touchdown opportunity for the coverage team. But in high school football, if the punt is never secured by the returner before going into the end zone, it's a touchback with the ball spotted at the 20."

Throughout their years together, the crew has seen the game evolve dramatically.

"Not only are teams throwing much more, we're even seeing more no-huddle offenses -- in high school," Parker said.

There's also an emphasis on safety that, much to the chagrin of fans who harken back to the days of Dick Butkus and Jack Tatum, has grown exponentially through the years.

"There's a lot more to look for with all the safety rules about blocking below the waist and head contact," Parker said. "But it's critical for the survival of the game."

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