Miller calls time on officiating career

February 09, 2009|By Dan Kauffman

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- For 43 years, Ron Miller was right in the middle of high school football games across the Tri-State area.

Ironically, that's the place he probably least wanted to be.

"It kept me away from umpiring as much as possible," the longtime official said. "I was umpiring in Pennsylvania where I was living. I used to use a finger whistle, and I had it up at my mouth because the play was coming up the middle. But the play got to the sideline and I got hit in my back and whistled the play dead as the player raced down the sideline. That was very embarrassing. That's why I got away from umpiring, I didn't like it in the middle."

For much of the last five decades, Miller was one of the men in stripes, officiating at any and all spots on the field. The Hagerstown native and Chambersburg, Pa., resident has decided to call it a career at age 77.


"I just always wanted to do it," Miller said. "I got started when my son was playing football, and they didn't have enough officials in the area. I played in high school and college, and they asked me if I would coach and I said, 'You need officials more than you need coaches.'"

Miller played for Hagerstown High School and later at Johns Hopkins University. He began his officiating career in the mid-1960s in the Eastern Panhandle and Winchester, Va., before moving to Chambersburg and calling games in Washington and Franklin counties.

Miller said the view of a game an official gets is much different from the one a fan gets, either live or on TV.

"You have to be watching what you're supposed to be watching instead of watching a football game," Miller said. "It's so easy on Sunday afternoon to sit watch a game, but when you're officiating, you're only watching one area."

Over the years, Miller has seen many, many plays differently from a coach or the fans. It's all part of the job.

"A lot of times a coach will give you a fit about what you called and they don't even know the rules and what's right," he said. "That's the main problem I found, so many coaches don't know the rules. ... If you hear rabbit ears, you hear everything that's going on, but if you're concentrating on the game, you don't hear anything going on behind you."

Miller said the quality of officiating is better now than it was when he started.

"When I started, we were working three- or four-man crews. Now, all varsity games are five-man crews in this area and some use six-man crews," Miller said. "I think (the officiating) is better because we have more training now. We do a lot of training within the association before the season even starts, and that's one of the biggest changes. We've got a lot of information."

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