EAST LIVERPOOL - A chance remark overheard at an Arizona football game has turned into a chance of a lifetime for those interested in a career as a football referee.
East Liverpool High School Assistant Principal Jay Kiger an NFL referee was at a game in Phoenix when he overheard a discussion about the NFL looking for a place to hold an academy.
Thinking nothing ventured, nothing gained, Kiger offered Patterson Field, and a visit was arranged.
"They were very impressed with our facilities. We've got the perfect facilities (for the academy)," Kiger told the school board Monday night during a presentation.
The end result will be a football officiating academy June 7-Aug. 9, open to 17- and 27-year-olds. There will be no cost to the participants for the intensive, 10-week training program, which is being sponsored by the National Football League and the high school.
Kiger said he has spoken with area athletic directors about sending a couple kids from each school, and he anticipates 120 participating, including 10 from East Liverpool.
The course will prepare participants to officiate youth and high school football and will include instruction by some of the best trainers available, including NFL officials, Kiger said.
Rules applications, sound officiating philosophies, mechanics (where to stand on the field, signals, movements and coverage areas during plays), and step-by-step instruction for officiating licenses will be included in the curriculum.
"This is the most phenomenal curriculum I've ever seen," Kiger enthused.
"Kids will come out of this certified with the NFL. This is a great opportunity for the kids and for us," Kiger said, noting there are not nearly enough officials in this area, so there are opportunities for those who complete the course to earn money through officiating.
"It's pretty lucrative," he said, saying a weekend game can net an official $150.
He told the board, "They could have gone anywhere in the country" but chose East Liverpool for the academy, and he emphasized, "The great part is it costs no one anything."
Once they graduate from the course, participants' uniforms are provided by the NFL, and Kiger said that is an additional value of about $500 they will receive at no cost.
The only requirement for the school district will be to provide food for the entire camp at times during the 10-week program, and Superintendent James Herring suggested perhaps sponsors can be found to offset even that cost, which Kiger estimated at about $200.
He issued a formal invitation from the NFL to all board members to participate in the academy, specifically noting the NFL is looking for women such as board President Janice Martin to get involved in officiating.
This participation would then be part of a documentary the NFL could show others.
On the first day of the academy, Kiger said he "really wants to roll out the red carpet" for NFL officials and others who will attend, saying he anticipates considerable media coverage.
Those who want to be considered can contact Kiger at 330-386-8750 or register at www.nflofficiating.com.