Jerry Markbreit was an NFL official for 33 years, the referee in eight conference championships and four Super Bowls.
This week, the league essentially showed him the door.
Markbreit, along with eight other former prominent game officials, were apparently fired for refusing to train replacements to take the jobs of locked-out officials. The replacements, many of them high school and junior college officials, met Friday for training in Dallas.
“The NFL never actually told us in writing we were fired,” said Markbreit, 77, who retired in 1999 as a game official and has spent the past decade as an officiating trainer. “However, they took our computers back, and they shut off the NFL website as they did to all of the officials. We feel that we’re fired. They haven’t formally notified us, but it sure feels like we’re fired.”
A league spokesman declined to comment on replacements early Friday and did not immediately respond to an email inquiring about the fate of the trainers.
The other eight officiating trainers asked to return their computers were Red Cashion, Ron Botchan, Bill Schmitz, Ben Montgomery, Jim Quirk, Sid Semon, Tom Fincken and Dean Look. Those men, who are not currently members of the referees' union, have 265 years of total service with the league and have worked a combined 22 Super Bowls.
“They wanted us to train the replacements, which we would absolutely not do,” Markbreit said. “We were all officials for 20-plus years .… How could we face our people? There wasn’t a question about us doing this. We knew this was coming.
“It’s very discouraging for [the league] to have put us in this kind of situation.”
Botchan, an umpire in a record five Super Bowls, said the trainers can only assume they no longer have a job.
“We’re in limbo,” Botchan said. “We’re so upset with them .… We’ve done a lot for that league.”