FOUR QUESTIONS: A CONVERSATION WITH… BRAD ALLEN
Brad Allen has served the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for many years as an outstanding game official in a number of sports, including officiating in NCHSAA football, basketball and baseball championships. He has just completed his first year as a referee in the National Football League. In fact, in another rare occurrence, he had officiated in the collegiate ranks for years and was an outstanding referee in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was called to the NFL as a referee (not line judge or back judge or other position on the field).
A resident of Lumberton, he serves as the regional supervisor of officials for the Southeastern Basketball Officials Association and has stayed active with the NCHSAA in addition to his NFL job. He received the prestigious NCHSAA Golden Whistle Award in 2009.
What do you believe are the most important attributes necessary for being an outstanding game official?
There is certainly a diverse skill set required for performing at your best as an official. You certainly have to understand that every game, at every level, is “big game” for everyone involved – coaches, players, fans, etc. and you must take that approach to your role as a game official. A strong game official must also have exceptional communication skills and work constantly to defuse volatile situations by addressing participants in a calm, firm but fair manner. Also very important is the ability to utilize an effective game management philosophy in knowing when to penalize an infraction and when to recognize a minor issue that doesn’t require a penalty. Those are some of the most important attributes that I would offer.
What have you seen as the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make between officiating in the National Football League and at the collegiate and high school levels?
The skill, strength and speed of the players increases as you advance from level to level. Only a fraction of the best high school players get to play at the NCAA Division I level and an even smaller percentage of those players make it to the NFL. The ability of the players in the NFL is amazing and impressive, to be sure. The game knowledge of all the participants – players and coaches alike — also increases at an incredible rate from level to level. Add to those important factors the increased scrutiny via video review and media interest, and an official’s physical conditioning, concentration level and attention to detail has to rise in order to meet the challenges put forth at each new level.
What are your best memories of officiating in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association?
I’ve had so many great games in so many sports involving NCHSAA schools. I officiated baseball, softball, basketball and football for twenty-five (25) years at the high school level and have been incredibly blessed to work with some of the best people – who also happen to be officials – that anyone could ever encounter. These women and men gave their time, energy and effort to help make me a better official and I’m forever grateful.
Add to that the fact that, through my work in the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association, I was able to work for some of the most legendary coaches in NCHSAA history – Bob Paroli, Ron Miller, Pete House, Linwood Hedgpeth, Randy Ledford, Jack Holley, Clyde Parrish, among many others–certainly provides great memories. There have been a lot of playoff games and state championships along the way, but being a part of the great efforts put forth by the players, coaches, administrators and officials for “the good of the game” in the NCHSAA is very special in and of itself!
Describe the emotions you felt when you got the call from the NFL that you would be joining the league as a game official, and how you feel after completing your first season.
When I got “the call, “ it was on a Friday, March 21st at 11:47am. That date also happens to be my Grandmother’s birthday and she’s now 91, so it was going to be a special day anyway. But when Dean Blandino called and said “I want you to come work for me on Sundays,” I wasn’t sure it was real. I was convinced initially he had called the wrong guy! But after a while, the reality did set in and I understood that it was really time to “go to work” as an official. That work will continue in the off-season to get ready for next year, as I want to give my best to the game in order to represent myself, my family and friends in a way that will honor all they have done to help me on one of the world’s biggest stages in sport.