Sunday Conversation: Bill Carollo, Big Ten officiating coordinator

Sunday Conversation: Bill Carollo, Big Ten officiating coordinator

After a long career blowing a whistle in the NFL, Bill Carollo enters his sixth season as the Big Ten officiating coordinator. Staff writer Bob Asmussen caught up with the Wisconsin resident at the league’s annual media kickoff:

How are the Big Ten officials doing?
It is always in the eye of the beholder. You could ask the coaches. You could ask the officials. If you are asking me, I think we are doing pretty well.
We’re doing pretty well, but we can continue to improve. I have identified every year areas that we are kind of weak in and (say), “Here’s what we are going to work on this year.” I saw the coaches in February, and I gave them a report card. I let them grade me. They don’t grade my officials, I grade them. I have NFL people grading them. I have a pretty good report card on every call for the whole season.

In which areas do you want to see improvement in 2014?
I selected three. No. 1, it was on defensive pass interference. That’s my first area. No. 2 was on line play: chop blocks, offensive holding, even defensive holding. No. 3 was hurry-up offense. We’re not very good at that. We don’t see it every single week. It puts pressure on the defense, but it puts pressure on the officials. We’re not quite ready. Offenses just keep coming the whole game. We’ve got 200 plays, and that’s a fast-paced game.

The coaches are helping the officials.
I asked the coaches, “I want your best teacher on offensive line play. I want your best teacher on defense who can train not just players but officials on pass interference.” I selected three coaches from the Big Ten.

What did the coaches do?
They came into our clinic. They knocked it right out of the park. It was good two-way learning. It gives me really good feedback. It was the best clinic we’ve ever had. We’re better officials because we understand what (coaches) are going to do. We can anticipate based on the schemes. Our best officials are guys who really understand the game.

How is replay working?
I think we have made steady improvement. We don’t want to make a mistake in replay. We can slow it down. We have high-definition TV. You can see two or three frames per second whereas on the field it’s 20 frames per second. It happens pretty fast out there. Replay is probably the most significant change in football ever. As far as officiating is concerned, replay is our friend. Replay helps the game. Replay fixes our mistakes. We average about five or six mistakes per game. Replay fixes some of those big mistakes. Every year, we tweak it a little bit. It’s not there to fix every mistake.

The Big Ten started replay for college football.
We were the pioneers in this area. We made it a little bit different than the NFL. We think we have a really good solution. We look at every single play. There’s not as much pressure on the coaches because they know the replay officials are evaluating that play. If it’s even close, we’re stopping it, and we’re going to fix it.

All of the major pro sports are taking their replay systems to league headquarters. Is that going to happen in the Big Ten?
The technology is there. The problem I have is that most of our games are on Saturdays in two time zones only. There are a lot of games going on at the same time. If you have a central site, it could cause some problems. The concept is good. You should get a more consistent answer.

Will the college football playoff add to the pressure on the officials?
There is always pressure. During the postseason, we don’t do our own teams, which I think is proper. We have neutral officials. I’d be the first to raise my hand and say, “Our guys are good enough. They’re ready. I want them in the championship game.” We get our fair share of big games. We get selected on merit.

Are you enjoying the work?
I love it.

What is the hardest part?
I am busier than I thought I might be. I underestimated the amount of work, and I underestimated how much work needs to be done to get better. I’m not the smartest guy, but I learned a lot from the NFL about trying to be the best you can be.

You spend game days at the Big Ten command center. Why?
We capture every game, so I know where we might have a problem. At the end of the day on Saturday, I can call the commissioner and say, “We have a problem at this location.” We make ourselves more available to the media.

Bo Pelini has become known for his sideline outbursts. Do you talk to him more than other coaches?
I think Bo is a really good coach. He’s very passionate, and he shows it. Some coaches lay back and don’t say a whole lot. He’s a very good football man. He doesn’t call me more than anyone else. I try to treat everyone equal.

Generally, how are the Big Ten coaches to work with?
They are professional. They know the game. They want to win. I get that. We don’t want to make mistakes. We do make mistakes. We’re all human. When we kick off, sometimes the personalities come out.

How is Tim Beckman with the officials?
Tim is good. I had Tim in the Mid-American Conference. There’s a little bit of history. He comes from a coaching family. He understands officiating, and he respects what we do.

How does your wife Mo like your job?
I was reffing before we got married. She knew it was an advocation. I was doing Pop Warner and high school and small college and eventually the Big Ten and the NFL. It is a part of our life. She participates. There are some things that you miss out on if you are gone every Saturday. To be successful as a coach or as an official in this business, you have to have a pretty understanding spouse, and I have one. I’m very lucky.

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