When Notre Dame and Michigan State square off on the gridiron Sept. 18, you might see GE Energy’s Glenn Crowther sprinting down the sidelines.
While Crowther makes a living as the product line leader for GE Energy’s performance fabrics, including Event (www.gepower.com), he works as a college football referee in his off time. He serves as a field judge -- look for the “F” on the back of his black and white striped shirt -- and sprints alongside receivers and defenders during downfield plays.
Crowther told SNEWS® he has worked as a referee since 1986, but actually became interested in it when he was a kid. “My dad got me into it,” he said. “I remember him taking me to some of the college games he would ref when I was a ball boy on the sidelines.”
Crowther began as a referee for kids’ football games, and eventually worked his way up through the high school and college ranks. Five years ago, he served as a field judge for his first big-time game in the Big East division, and last year, he worked the New Orleans Bowl.
The field judge position is fairly physical, with plenty of walking, running and occasional sprinting, and Crowther estimates that he covers about six miles in a game. “It’s a way to stay in the game and stay active too,” he said. “Unfortunately, every year I get a little older, and all those kids stay the same age.”
As a field judge, Crowther also faces the potential ire of disgruntled fans, as he’s tasked with making judgment calls for penalties like pass interference and holding by the wide receivers. “It’s all the tough calls,” he said. When asked if he’s gotten use to the booing from the stands, he joked, “It’s good practice for the rest of my life, with people yelling at me.”
In a season, Crowther will ref about nine games involving the Big East, Notre Dame and Division II teams, such as those in the Ivy League. While he gets paid for being a ref, he said it’s not a great amount of money. “It’s not enough to make it a full-time job, but this is my hobby,” he said. For Crowther, being a ref brings the same kind of escape that people enjoy while hiking, kayaking or climbing. “For three to four hours on a Saturday,” said Crowther, “you have to forget about everything else.”