By Greg Gulas
As one of just 55 Big Ten football officials and three from the Mahoning Valley, Julius Livas is the first to tell you he climbed the Division I ladder because he honed his skills at local games under more experienced officials.
Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches’ Monday luncheon, Livas said the Big Ten could again have as many as eight or nine teams in a bowl game this season.
“We’ve had some excellent teams in the league the past several years and those making the bowl selections have taken notice of the parity within the league, and the successes of those teams from the Big Ten,” Livas said.
Livas, who opened his season with Ohio University’s upset at Penn State on Sept. 1, will be in Columbus this week for the Cal-Ohio State game. He then heads to South Bend for Michigan-Notre Dame on Sept. 22.
“There were 191 plays from the line of scrimmage in that Penn State-Ohio U. game. You’re seeing more and more teams today go to the no-huddle offense so not only do the players have to be ready, but the officials had better be ready as well,” Livas said. “There’s no time to catch your breath. Because the pace of the game has picked up, it’s a rarity when you have a team that actually does huddle.”
Livas, a line judge, is in his 14th season in the Big Ten and his 24th collegiate season overall. He said head coaches can and will work you from the sidelines.
“There’s a lot on the line for every team,” he said. “The coaches give us respect, especially the veteran officials. It’s a two-way street, however, and we respect them just as well.”
He’s drawn eight bowl assignments and big games such as Ohio State-Texas (when the teams were ranked 1-2) and Ohio State-Miami (when Jim Tressel faced former Hurricanes coach Larry Coker).
“You had better know the rules, especially if you were officiating a Jim Tressel-coached team because he absolutely knew the rules, if not better than some of the officials,” Livas quipped.
Livas said he respected former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
“I had a Michigan game in Ann Arbor and, before the game, coach Carr mentioned to me that he would be busy coaching today, however, he would help still try to help me do my job,” he said. “Coach Paterno visited my home and tried to recruit me when I was coming out of high school. I ended up going to Bowling Green so when I became an official, I re-introduced myself to him in my very first Big Ten game when they played the University of Virginia.
“He had such a keen mind, he said he still didn’t forgive me for not coming to Penn State.”
In preparing for the season, Livas and fellow Big Ten officials Tom Krispinsky and Rob Luklan, and Mid-American Conference official Jim Visingardi will meet weekly in the month or so leading up the opening week.
Livas, Krispinsky and Luklan spend three days in Chicago in late-July and early-August, working with all Big Ten Conference officials and Bill Corolla, head of the league’s select group as they go over new rules, interpretations and situations.
“Once the season starts, then the local officials will meet every Wednesday night in order to go over any odd situations and things out of the ordinary that might have come up in a game,” he said. “We like to keep each other informed as to what is happening with our respective crews.”
Next week’s guest speaker is Dr. Chester Cooper, YSU biology professor and the school’s NCAA faculty athletics representative who served as an umpire in the recent Little League World Series.