For the 2011 regular-season opener between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, the NFL gave us an officiating crew led by Clete Blakeman, who had been in the league since 2008 -- first as a field judge, and then has a referee. Blakeman moved up from the Big 12 conference, where he officiated for years before and was an alternate official in the BCS Championship Game. In the offseason, Blakeman runs his own law firm in Omaha.
For the 2012 regular-season opener between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, the NFL will give us an officiating drew led by Jim Core, whose football resume is slightly less impressive. Core is one of the NFL's replacement officials while the league locks out the real guys, and his officiating history consists of stints in the Frontier Conference and Arena2 football.
When Core wasn't calling games between such powerhouses as the teams of Montana Western and Dickinson State, he was moving up the professional ladder as an activities director at Sawtooth Middle School in Meridian, Idaho. Core's proximity to Arena2's Boise Burn led to that particularly challenging gig, as well.
"I think it's a great opportunity for him,'' Sawtooth principal Kevin Leishman told the Idaho Statesman. "He will take a day off here and there, it's not a conflict.''
Of course, Leishman would be understanding about the conflict, as he's officiated Frontier Conference games with Core over the last five years.
Neil Peterson, supervisor of officials for the Frontier Conference, had his own ringing endorsement of Core, saying that Core "is a competent official. He does a great job in our conference.''
Alrighty, then. So, no concerns about this guy running the biggest game of his life, trying to regulate a level of football that's at least three levels higher than anything he's worked before? Add this to the equation: According to Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas, Core will be working with a crew of officials he's never worked with before. Yes, folks -- as confused as the replacement crews seemed to be in the preseason, the NFL -- in its infinite wisdom -- has decided to split those crews up and start all over again. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, this: Core made himself infamous in the Week 4 preseason game between the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when he was unable to decide on a completion even after looking at the replay. Core came out, said, "We're going to look at it one more time," and went back under the hood.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the man the NFL has determined will be qualified to officiate its 2012 regular-season opening game. Let's hope Core and his new friends can skip a few levels of paygrade, because the eyes of America will be on this one.