Football: OU intramural sports director has history of college officiating

via Nick Brigati

By: Alex Busch

Nick Brigati, Ohio interim director of intramural and club sports, said he kind of “drifted through college” during his freshman year in Athens.

But as he was coaching summer baseball at his home in Centerville, Ohio, following his freshman year, he crossed paths with a professional baseball umpire that inspired him to pursue officiating.

“I talked to the plate umpire about how I really would like to get involved with (officiating),” Brigati said. “He gave me the name of a guy to get in touch with, so I took the class and became a (high school-level) football official before I came back to school.”

Brigati, a 2001 Centerville High School graduate, was very involved throughout that summer, and when he came back to Athens, he immediately got involved with OU intramural sports.

Since his humble upbringing in the officiating ranks, he has ascended to the status of a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football referee. The GLIAC is a Division II conference based primarily in Ohio and Michigan.

He said his experience as a student at Ohio was beneficial, because he believes that repetition is the best way to learn and get better at something — in this case, officiating.

The process of becoming a collegiate official is much different than many would think, Brigati said.

“Getting into (officiating) college (football) is less direct,” he said, comparing the route to other sports’. “It has a lot to do with your experience. Some leagues require applications. Some leagues require that the supervisor trusts his referees enough to go fill out his crew.”

He said that attending clinics is an efficient way to become a referee or gain more experience, as well as get your name out there as a well-versed official.
Steve Furniss, a coordinator of officials for the Ohio Athletic Conference, is in charge of managing and hiring officials. Furniss, who has been involved in officiating for more than 20 years and has been in charge of hiring for the conference during the past five, said the hiring process is a lengthy one.

“You have to get noticed by a coordinator,” he said. “Most do that by going to training camps or clinics, and once one gets on the radar (of a supervisor or coordinator) the league or conference sends someone to watch the official’s high school or varsity games.”

He said the bulk of the application process consists of sending in tape and getting noticed in live action. It is also a lot of working your way up, he said.
“You will start as a temporary or supplemental official and then have to move your way up from that to a regular,” he said, also noting that there are similar hierarchies as far as advancing from a Division III referee to Division II and I.

As many realized during the recent NFL officials’ lockout, officiating is not usually a full-time job.

Brigati is in charge of intramural sports at OU and officiates mostly in Ohio, Michigan and sometimes in Indiana. He has learned to thrive despite his hectic schedule and said he enjoys the extra travel, as well.

He gets to train and work with the intramural teams at OU during the week and then officiate college football on the weekends.

“(Intramurals at OU) is my regular job, and then any officiating I do in addition to that — whether it is watching tape from last week, et cetera  — that’s an extra 10-to-25 hours a week that I have to carve out of my personal life.”

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