On a typical Sunday, Bruce Hulion looks forward to kicking back and watching the Green Bay Packers, his favorite team, play.
This season, Hulion, an executive with the SC High School League and commissioner of the SC Football Coaches Association, is following the Packers with a more critical eye.
With regular NFL officials locked out in a contract dispute between the league and the officials union, substitutes have been called in from the college and high school ranks a domain that Hulion has occupied for 38 years.
From the top level of high school to college is a big step. Its a giant leap for anybody to go from high school to the NFL, said Hulion, who is in charge of booking officials for all SCHSL football games.
Ive been an official for 38 years and I wouldnt do it, he said. I know I cant.
But four officials from South Carolina are among the replacement officials. Anthony Stroman and Derra Ramsey are from the Midlands. Tim Keese from Anderson and David Hale from Charleston have also worked NFL games during the lockout, which began in June.
The substitute officials are barred from conducting interviews in-season, a standard NFL policy that applies to union officials as well. NFL officials would not confirm how many games the South Carolina substitutes have called.
Bryan Fink, president of the S.C. Football Officials Association, was unaware that any of his colleagues were working at the NFL level during the lockout.
There are probably a handful of guys in our organization that would have that as a goal, but for the vast majority, this is an avocation, said Fink, who has been calling high school games for 29 seasons.
What for some might be a dream job also comes with a heavy burden. At the games highest level and under national scrutiny, the substitute officiating crews have been criticized for lack of professionalism and knowledge of the league rules.
A lot of these guys are in way over their heads, Hulion said.
I am fairly empathetic with them because they are put into a position that they cannot be successful, Fink said. They almost certainly would not be able to be in the right position, or to have a truly thorough understanding of the rules, so I dont know how they could really be successful.
The South Carolina officials are not without knowledge or experience.
According to the 2012 SCFOA Officials Ratings, Hale has eight years experience and is rated 31st among judges. Stroman, rated 36th, has 13 years experience and Ramsey is a 26-year veteran who is rated rated 80th among judges. Keese is ranked 58th among umpires.
According to reports, the regular refs and the NFL are getting closer to a deal.
But as long as the replacement refs continue to work, Hulion and Fink agree they appear to be out of their element.
On Monday night, while Hulion and other Packers fans lamented the game-deciding simultaneous catch call they gave Seattle a victory against Green Bay, Fink had conflicting thoughts.
As an official, our rule book is full of definitions, telling us what things are, and there is a definition for simultaneous catch, and looking at the replay, it very closely resembles the definition, Fink said.
Thinking it over, Fink said he might be inclined to disagree with the substitute crews call. Eventually, though, his conclusion was simple.
Im glad it wasnt me, Fink said.