View Full Version : Umpires And Referees Get Paid How Much?

10-29-2009, 06:59 PM

Umpires and referees get paid what?
By Ethan Trex, Mental Floss
October 29, 2009 11:19 a.m. EDT
Mental Floss

(Mental Floss) -- Major League Baseball's umpires are all over the news after a spate of, er, questionable calls throughout this postseason. Despite larger postseason umpiring crews that include two extra umps in the outfield, it feels like an inordinate number of calls have gone the wrong way.

All of these gaffes have prompted renewed debate about whether baseball should start using instant replay. How could umps blow this many calls that are so obvious when viewed in slow motion? Aren't these guys trained professionals? Are they handsomely rewarded? What do we really know about the men in blue, anyway?

After some spotty officiating in the NFL last fall, we did some digging on the officials in the four major sports. Here's what we found:

They make good money

A National Football League ref can make anywhere from $25,000 to $70,000 a season, although since most of the games are on Sundays, they can also have other jobs during the week. (We'll get to those in a minute.)

That cash comes with responsibilities, though. In addition to relaying the calls to the teams and fans, a ref is also the crew chief, or leader, of the seven-man officiating team that also includes an umpire, a field judge, a back judge, a line judge, a side judge, and a head linesman.

Officials in other sports pull down more loot, but they have much more grueling schedules...

Baseball. According to MLB.com, MLB umpires get around $120,000 when they start out in the big leagues, and senior umps can earn upwards of $300,000. Between spring training, a 162-game schedule, and the postseason, being an MLB ump is a job that takes up most of the year.

They are, however, well cared-for while on the road. Each ump gets a $340 per diem to cover hotel and food, and when they fly, it's always first class. Working a full postseason can tack on an extra $20,000, plus expenses. They also get four weeks of paid vacation during the regular season.

These guys hang onto their jobs, too; on average, there's only one opening for a new big league ump each season.

Basketball. National Basketball Association refs are similarly well compensated. They earn anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 for an 82-game season. There are some nice fringe benefits, too; when referee Tim Donaghy admitted to helping gamblers fix games, the NBA asked that he repay other benefits he'd pulled in over the course of his 13-year career, including $750 worth of sneakers and $4500 worth of free tickets.

Hockey. If you can skate and survive the occasional lockout, National Hockey League ref is hardly a bad job. Refs make between $110,000 and $255,000 while linesmen earn from $72,000 to $162,000. Mental Floss: Stories behind all 30 NHL team names

NFL refs have day jobs

Since NFL refs only work one day each week, they can have "real" jobs to supplement what they earn on any given Sunday. Some of them actually have pretty interesting jobs.

Mike Carey, my personal favorite ref, is an entrepreneur and inventor who holds eight patents for snow sports apparel. He founded and co-owns Seirus Innovation, a ski apparel company.

Walt Coleman is infamous in Oakland for being the ref in the "Tuck Rule Game," but he's also a fifth-generation dairy farmer who once held the position of president of the Arkansas Dairy Products Association.

Walter Anderson became an official in the league in 1996 and got the promotion to referee in 2003. Prior to becoming a referee, he was better known as Dr. Walt Anderson, a dentist.

Tony Corrente is probably used to dealing with unruly crowds of guys from his day job as a high-school social studies teacher.

If Jeff Triplette seems hard to scare on the field, it's probably because he's seen worse. He was an Army Reserve colonel during the Persian Gulf War, where he was awarded a bronze star. Mental Floss: What's with those AFL throwback uniforms?

Bill Leavy is similarly tough; he spent 27 years as a police officer and firefighter in San Jose.

Ron Winter's not just a ref, he's also an associate professor in Western Michigan University's phys. ed. department.

Gene Steratore must love how he looks in stripes. In addition to being an NFL ref, he officiates NCAA hoops games and has drawn March Madness assignments in previous seasons.

And when Ed Hochuli isn't officiating a game (or working out), you might find him in a courtroom. He's a trial lawyer in the Arizona firm Jones, Skelton, and Hochuli, which employs over 80 attorneys.

It's a long climb to the top

How does one become a ref? Most of these guys have humble beginnings as officials. Carey started officiating Pop Warner games in 1972 and gradually worked his way up through the college ranks. Eventually, he became an NFL side judge in 1990 and received a promotion to NFL referee, the pinnacle of football officiating, in 1995.

Hochuli started as a Pop Warner ref in the early 1970s; he was a law school student who needed a little extra pocket cash. He then slowly made his way up through high school, junior college, and small conference college ball before getting a Pac-10 gig. He eventually made it to the NFL in 1990. It's a slow build, but if you stick it out long enough and have some natural talent, you can be the one patting his head to signal an ineligible receiver downfield.

Still not convinced it's a tough ride? In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent cited the paltry salaries for minor-league umps: just $9500 for a five-month season for junior umpires, and only $20,000 a season for guys who have risen all the way to Triple A ball.

Didn't know Hochuli was a lawyer. Interesting stuff.

That One Guy
10-29-2009, 10:08 PM
Hochuli's lawfirm got lots of press after the Cutler fumble whistle thing when Hochuli was taking and responding to emails through his firm email account. The NFL finally told him to stop because he was admitting he was wrong and apologizing (or two p's if that word has two, can't remember).

10-29-2009, 10:21 PM
they were talking about this on sirius, why arent NFL officials full time officials? should decrease alot of the BS calls we see if they have more time to prepare and study film and practice.

10-29-2009, 11:42 PM
they were talking about this on sirius, why arent NFL officials full time officials? should decrease alot of the BS calls we see if they have more time to prepare and study film and practice.

I disagree with this. I think the officials actually do a great job, aside from the game seeming to be over-officiated these days.

Add in replay, and most of the calls are being made correctly out there. Of course, on any play... someone is holding and someone is interfering with someone. Why they choose to call it sometimes and not others is beyond me.

But, you take your average sideline catch, or endzone toe-tap or fumble before knee down... and these refs do a freakishly good job getting it right most of the time. Of course, I'm as guilty as anyone of blasting them when they **** up, but hey... I'm a sports fan.

Still, in fairness... they do a great job and especially considering their circumstances. These guys work on their craft year-round, they're just not paid as full-timers.

Should they be? Probably. At a certain point, refs having other gigs was probably a necessity. But, we're beyond that. Too much rides on these games.

So, I agree that they should be made full-time... but I don't agree that they're doing a bad job overall.

10-29-2009, 11:50 PM
I used to work a block away from Hochuli's office downtown Phoenix

10-29-2009, 11:56 PM
the game seeming to be over-officiated these days.


Why they choose to call it sometimes and not others is beyond me.

A little bit of a contradiction. Just sayin'

10-29-2009, 11:59 PM
I used to work a block away from Hochuli's office downtown Phoenix

Um, wow?

10-30-2009, 02:05 AM
I really don't think full-time referees really change anything. If it seems like refs are having a tougher time in the NFL, it might because the rulebook keeps getting more and more complex. Trying to decipher the difference between incidental contact and pass interference is almost mind-numbing to say the least. All of these rules designed to protect players (which I mostly support) makes the job of calling these games incredibly more difficult.

10-30-2009, 02:12 AM
They're probably all a bunch of Donaghy's anyways.

10-30-2009, 07:52 AM
they were talking about this on sirius, why arent NFL officials full time officials? should decrease alot of the BS calls we see if they have more time to prepare and study film and practice.

Completely disagree with this. Full time officials aren't going to change the calls. NFL officials are not allowed to work at lower levels so its not like they are taking rules from Fridays or Saturdays and trying to apply them to sunday or vice versa. And they do spend time preping and doing film study in fact as low as D2 they are required to do this. In FCS (D1AA) they are required to be in twon the full day before the game, meet with both coaches and watch video from both teams. In D2 they spend the entire day of the game at the field meeting with both coaches and captains before the game, and most times get sent video during the week of either previous weeks mistakes that need to be corrected or goofy situations that everyone needs to be aware of. Personally I work HS FB and BBall, I get between $65 and $75 for varsity games on any given night. The only prep work that we have is to know the rules and hope that the guys you show up for know the rules. The key is knowing the mechanics and to be watching what your are supposed to be watching. If all the officials on the field are watching their keys you should have a decently officiated game. Included in that will be missed calls, or fouls that are let go at the disgression of the officials, thus Maddens line "they could call holding on every play". If you look at the guys working big time college football games, alot of these guys are getting old, we are even seeing a problem with that in HS and there is a large problem finding officials to work games because of the extreme in your face nature of the job. I don't consider it a job however, I enjoy officiatiating and think that I am just extending my playing days and make a few extra bucks to keep in shape. And I know a great number of officials that think and feel the same way.

10-30-2009, 08:48 AM
I think the NFL officiating is miles ahead of NBA officiating. The NBA guys get caught up in home-crowd excitement, especially during the playoffs. It's ridiculous.