By Greg Gulas
When North Dakota State squares off Saturday against Towson State for the FCS championship, Poland’s Jim Visingardi will be front and center as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference officiating crew selected to work the game.
A field judge, Visingardi is in his 20th collegiate season and 36th year overall as an official, having completed his initial ACC campaign after 19 years in the Mid-American Conference.
“I have had an absolutely great time this year and to be selected to work this year’s FCS national championship game is just icing on the cake,” the Poland resident said. “I worked 13 consecutive weeks, counting play-offs and each game was unique in its own way and very exciting.”
A former side judge while with the MAC, he made the transition to field judge this year for league supervisor Doug Rhodes, a person whom he calls one of the very best supervisors on any level.
“While the Big Ten Conference also oversees the MAC and Missouri Valley Conference, the ACC is aligned with the Big South Conference,” he noted. “The ACC had crews working the first two rounds of this year’s FCS playoffs and that qualified our conference for the title game.”
Of the two ACC crews selected to work, only Visingardi was selected from his crew; a testimonial to evaluations that he received during his first ACC season.
Visingardi’s crew was selected to work Towson State’s 35-31 semifinal victory at Eastern Washington. The other crew worked Jacksonville State’s second-round game, a 31-10 victory over McNeese State. Visingardi expected his crew to be busy preparing for the game from the time they arrived in Frisco, Texas, on Thursday right up until kickoff Saturday.
“We’ll be watching film on both teams, looking at their formations, tendencies and everything else that they do so we aren’t caught off guard. The last thing we want as a crew is to be surprised,” he said. “We’ll look at what they run offensively, how they line up defensively and pay close attention to their special teams.”
Visingardi opened his first ACC season at Miami when the Hurricanes hosted Florida Atlantic. He called preparation for Georgia Tech a daunting task.
“I had Georgia Tech several times this year and they are a very difficult team for which officials must really prepare. You just have to be on your toes the entire game,” he said. “That’s the main reason I like to go out about an hour prior to a game in order to watch each team’s punting and kicking game. I want to see how far they kick the ball, their hang time and everything associated with that part of their game.”
Visingardi was also chosen as ACC liaison with Notre Dame, scheduling spring game officials while accommodating the Fighting Irish’s various officiating needs.
He’ll spend next season with a field crew, but in 2015 will move to the booth and work replay for games at Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse and the University of Pittsburgh among others.
“Making the jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference has also presented me the opportunity to work with replay once I leave the field,” he said. “That will be another exciting chapter in my officiating career. This does not happen if guys like Fred Vicarel and Mike Butch didn’t take time with me when I was a high school official, and Dr. Larry Glass and Dick Creed during my college career.”
Rob Luklan, who spent 10 seasons with Visingardi in the MAC, also moved to the ACC this year after four seasons in the Big Ten.
Luklan, who was selected to work this year’s ACC title game between Florida State and Duke, said Visingardi has helped him over the years.
“Jim has been a great friend and mentor to me, assisting during my transition from Division III to Division I while fielding any questions I might have; no matter how insignificant they might seem. He’s guided me like a big brother and taken me under his wing,” Luklan said. “His selection to work the FCS’s most important game is well-deserved.”
North Dakota State, 14-0 and a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, will go after its third consecutive FCS title under head coach Craig Bohl having won 42 of its last 44 contests.
Towson State, coached by Rob Ambrose and runner-up in the Colonial Athletic Association, will take a 13-2 overall mark into the game in search of its first FCS title.
Game time at Pizza Hut Park is set for 2 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2.