By Greg Gulas
While traveling to this year’s Independence Bowl, Boardman’s Rob Luklan spent a lot of time Christmas Day reflecting on his officiating career.
It began in the YSU intramural league, through the high school ranks and state playoffs as well as three college conferences.
Working this year’s Missouri-North Carolina football game, his seventh bowl assignment, the third-year Big Ten back judge told the Curbstone Coaches at Monday’s weekly luncheon meeting that YSU was the kick-start he needed.
“There are many officials out there that trace their roots to college and their intramural league days,” he said. “Former YSU intramural director Jack Rigney gave me the opportunity to become an official and for that I will be forever grateful.
“The only motivation we needed was to know that [YSU graduate] John Clougherty started his basketball career in our intramural league.
“He worked for over 30 years in the ACC, Big East, SEC and Big 12, and currently serves as the director of basketball officials for the ACC,” Luklan said.
Luklan, who also works as a basketball official, worked in the Ohio Athletic Conference and Mid-American Conference before getting the call from the Big Ten.
This season he worked the Ohio State-Illinois game; the near upset of Illinois over eventual conference champion Wisconsin and the game between Iowa and Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb.
He noted that working a bowl game is no different when it comes to preparation, but added that the first five minutes or so of the game are the most critical when establishing order.
“You need the first five minutes of the game just to make sure that nothing goes haywire. Both teams need to know who is in charge and must realize that we expect everyone to play a fair game all around,” he added.
Luklan, who worked five bowl games while a Mid-American Conference official, has worked two bowl games as a Big Ten official.
The offseason is anything but for Luklan and the other 54 Big Ten officials, including Boardman residents Julius Livas and Tom Krispinsky.
In February, the entire Big Ten group of officials, along with supervisor Bill Corolla will head to Chicago where they will take part in testing, as well as a one-day clinic where they will be asked to re-cap the 2011 campaign and begin preparation for the upcoming season.
“Everyone will take a long, hard look at the good and bad plays from the past season,” said Luklan. “Some up-and-coming officials will also be invited so there is plenty to get done in just a short period of time.”
While there aren’t any rule changes proposed for next season, one thing that will continue will be the tracking of hits to the head and upper part of the body.
“We’re always looking out for the welfare of the players and that remains paramount when we are on the field,” he said.
“We’re watching for concussions and after every game this past season we were asked to fill out a report; one that included how many times and whose helmets were knocked off over the course of the game.
“They don’t want the crown of the helmet being used as a weapon.”
Next week, YSU baseball coach Rich Pasquale will serve as guest speaker.