Bill LeMonnier is an evil man. Not because he has been a football official for 35 years, the past 15 in the Big Ten. It is because he wields that collected knowledge without mercy. Each year otherwise stable men have their brains scrambled by the 100-question officials' test LeMonnier co-authored for USA Football.
|How'd you fare on the test? Guaranteed it wasn't as well as this guy. (Getty Images)|
Actually, it seemed like a good idea to put my mind where my mouth is when it comes to criticizing officials. How hard could it be? A few Team As encroaching on Team Bs. Kickoffs sailing out of bounds. To replay or not to replay?
What could I lose?
Well, my dignity for one thing. A bit of pride too. Both took a blind-side hit when my final score was instantly calculated on USA Football's website. I flunked, just so you know when you go to the site. You must take the test, by the way, because there has to be someone out there who scored worse than me:
That's another way of saying I got 54 wrong. Less than half right. That's a failing grade from here to South Bend. Translated into Wonderlic terms, I'm more Dan Marino (who reportedly got a 14 of 50 correct) than Drew Henson (a reported 42). Hey, who would you rather have at quarterback?
Just don't make me a field judge. Terry Porter, whose name is officially a swear word in Coral Gables, all is forgiven. Porter is the official who threw that controversial flag for pass interference against Miami's Glenn Sharpe in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
|Sample questions from USA Football.com's 100-question 2008 NCAA football test|
| 17. 1st & 10 on B's 20. The slot receiver moves up to the line of scrimmage, which leaves him between the left tackle and flexed end. Slot receiver goes downfield, catches a pass on B's 8 and advances for a touchdown. Officials rule touchdown. Replays show that the slot receiver was on the line and "covered." |
A. Not reviewable
B. Reviewable, Team A, 1/15 @ B25
| 30. Team B intercepts a legal forward pass and scores a touchdown. Prior to the change of team possession, Team A is flagged for a chop block. Time expires in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd quarter during the down. |
A. Team B may elect to have the 15-yard penalty for the personal foul enforced on the try or the succeeding kickoff, including the 2nd half kickoff. The period is extended for the try but not the succeeding kickoff.
B. The penalty is declined by rule.
C. If Team A opts for the penalty on the succeeding kickoff, the quarter will be extended for one untimed down.
| 40. 4th & 10 on A's 20. The score is tied. Team A's punt is illegally touched by a Team A player on B's 42, then picked up on B's 39 by a Team B player who runs five yards and fumbles. Team A recovers and picks up the fumble dragging a defender to Team B's goal line between the hash marks. The covering official signals a touchdown. During Team A's run, a Team B player has an incidental facemask in making the tackle. 4-seconds remain in the 4th quarter. Replay shows the Team A runner was downed on B's 1/2. Team B is coming out of the huddle to snap the ball on B's 42. Clock? Reviewable? |
A. A 1/goal B-1/4. The clock starts on the snap. The play is reviewable.
B. A 1/goal B-1/2. The clock starts on the snap. The play is reviewable.
C. B 1/10 @ B42. The incidental facemask is not a foul.
| 63. 2nd and 9 @ B's 49. Team A runner is near the sideline on B's 38 when a Team B player bats the ball from his possession. The Team A runner runs a few steps out of bounds [without the ball], returns inbounds, recovers the ball on B's 29 and advances the ball across B's goal line. |
A. Touchdown for Team A.
B. A 1st and 10 @ B's 38-yard line.
C. A 3rd and 9 @ B's 49-yard line.
| 81. 2nd and 14 @ A's 28. Team A right guard commits a false start. Team B nose guard reacts and commits a personal foul when he slams the right guard to the ground. Team A is lined up in an illegal formation. |
A. Offsetting dead ball fouls; 2nd & 14 @ A's 28.
B. A 1st & 10 @ A38.
| Dennis Dodd only got 46 out of 100 questions correct. Here's the questions he got wrong: 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 21, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 35, 37, 39, 40, 41, 44, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 67, 68, 69, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78, 79, 81, 84, 88, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100. |
You can download a PDF version of the test or take an online version.
Poor old Gordon Riese deserves our sympathy too. As an official, Gordo worked everything from the infamous Stanford-Cal game in 1982 to the first BCS title game between Florida State and Tennessee. But he is best known for being the replay official in the 2006 Oklahoma-Oregon game. We all know that the Sooners got screwed. Riese hasn't been able to live with himself since that day.
Maybe one day J.C. Louderback will get his name out of the history books. Unfortunately, the first sentence of his obit is destined to mention that J.C. was the referee in the infamous Fifth Down Game (Missouri-Colorado, 1990).
The next time I think about ripping an official, I'm just as likely to send a sympathy card. It has become obvious that their job is harder than titanium. After taking the test, the hot-air balloon that was once my football ego is now flatter than West Texas.
Forty-six? I have this vision of chimps blankly staring at a computer screen in a sterile lab setting. In my vision, punching random keys, Skippy scores a 52.
"I see scores that go down -- for regular officials -- into the low 60s, the first time they take it," the Evil LeMonnier said, trying to cheer me up.
Thanks Bill, but a 60 would be 14 points better than me and only slightly better than Skippy.
This wouldn't be so embarrassing if free will wasn't involved. LeMonnier didn't exactly use force to hook me up to his multiple-choice electric chair. Curiosity killed the hack. I was a willing and welcome victim for LeMonnier, an official's official. He basically works year round, as an official in both college and in the Arena Football League. The rest of the year is spent as a speaker and clinician for USA Football, the nation's governing body for youth and amateur football.
He and co-author Dick Honig, a retired Big Ten referee, begin jotting down notes during the season. In December, they start writing questions. A third party edits the material. Two months ago, 15 officials test-drove the test before final adjustments were made. You don't need to know that the lowest score was 75.
The test is divided into nine sections: New rules, replay, end of quarter, scrimmage kicks, running plays, passing plays, multiple fouls, free kicks and miscellaneous plays. I advocate adding a 10th category: Advil, for the post-test migraine.
You might want to pop a couple before diving into this typical question:
32. In the first series of the first overtime period, Team B defensive back intercepts a pass and scores. Prior to scoring at the 5-yard line, the Team B player somersaults into the end zone.
A. Team B wins the game; no enforcement on the unsportsmanlike conduct foul. B. Cancel the score and carry the unsportsmanlike foul to the next series by Team B.
The test will tax your mind and cut into your free time. Set aside at least an hour -- for question No. 40 alone. It is a 118-word brain teaser about a sequence that includes a fumble, a recovery, an incidental facemask and a replay review.
You can take the test as many times as you want. LeMonnier tells me that his legion of undead zebra zombies will keep logging on until they get 100. For the rest of us there might be more important things to do -- like sleep and eat. That kind of attitude (and my score) isn't going to get me invited to the annual get-together at LeMonnier's Chicago-area home.
"My backyard first week, second week of July is known for having about 15 to 20 college officials here," he said. "We sit here with lawn chairs with some pops from 6:30 to 10 o'clock at night and go through the test.
"We're arguing rules. Guys have their rulebooks out. Everybody is pulling together."
It hurts not being able to talk shop with the honorable men in this elite group. It's flat out embarrassing not knowing the game as well as a chimp. LeMonnier must have known something when he heard I was taking the test.
"Give him the e-mail for USA Badminton," he told a USA Football staffer. "It's an easier test."
That's what I get for showboating, which probably explains why No. 32 is one of the few questions that I got right. The answer is B.
What I learned on my brain's summer vacation: There are no flags for humility.