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Old Mon Nov 02, 2009, 10:10am
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Officiating. About the pay?

Officiating pay at the pro, college and high school levels is discussed in this newsletter article draft. I'm inviting forum members to take a look and comment and help me from including anything incorrect or stupid.

Officiating. About The Pay? (Draft)

     Few sports officials earn a living officiating. Most earn a modest return to supplement primary earnings. Let's start from the top and work down. Officials for the 4 most popular U.S. professional leagues earn base pay between $25,000 and $400,000 per year with substantial expense and benefit packages.

Big 4 Officiating Yearly Compensation1, 2
    # of OfficialsBase Pay
League Games3 Total Game Low $High $
NBA 82 62 3 90,000 400,000
NFL 16 120 7 25,000 75,000
NHL 82 74 4 115,000 280,000
MLB 162 84 484,000 300,000, Major League Baseball, N.Y. Times
2Air fare and other expenses are paid by all leagues. MLB, the    NBA, NFL and NHL also provide retirement benefits.
3Games per team per season

     Earnings for college officials vary widely particularly across division and conference boundaries. Consider basketball officials. Entry level men's division 1 officials earn around $600 to $700 in some lower profile conferences. Some game fees exceed $1,500 in elite conferences. Travel expenses are an add-on and also differ widely.

     2010 NCAA D1 Tournament Basketball officiating fees will increase dramatically over 2009 levels. First round rates are up from $750 to $1,000 (33%), regional rates from $1,000 to $1,400 (40%) and final four rates from $1,400 to $2,000 (43%). In addition, accommodations, transportation expenses a $75 per diem are covered. This is a de facto acknowledgment that the top officials who work the tournament were underpaid relative to regular season earnings.

     For the 2008/2009 season, the top 20 D1 officials (by number of games officiated) each worked nearly 100 D1 games. For the remainder of the roughly 1,000 D1 officials, the number of games worked declined steadily with the bottom quarter barely working any D1 games at all.

     These observations are based on boxscore statistics from While adjustments

may be required to arrive at exact numbers, the picture is clear. It is no surprise that many D1 officials continue to work lower levels of college ball to fill out officiating schedules. Many lower level college officials also complete their schedules with high school assignements.

     The drop from D1 pay is steep. D2 rates are frequently around $200 per game. D3 and junior college rates are in the the $50 to $150 range. Expense compensation is modest, when provided. Relative to High school officials, college officials are required to arrive earlier and travel further for their single game assignment in a day. When these factors are considered, a “small ball” college official could often take home more by officiating 1 or 2 local high school games on a given day. maintains a sample of high school basketball officiating rates at the state and local level. This list is based on identified public sources as well as informal reports from officials. You can contribute by reviewing the list and submitting corrections and additions.

     High school varsity rates vary from as low as $36 per game in Louisiana to $100+ in New York City and Long Island, NY. Some locales provide travel reimbursement beyond a specified distance, others do not. Texas seems to be unique in determining fees based on spectator attendance.

High School Officating - Money On The Side
As an example, assume an official works for $50 per game, 6 games a week, 20 weeks a year. The $6,000 total won't replace a day job, but can be a significant contribution.
Developer of -- local, national, global officiating information

Last edited by wanja; Thu Nov 05, 2009 at 04:14pm. Reason: update d1 tourney fees
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Old Mon Nov 02, 2009, 10:33am
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You misspelled "significant" in the last sentence. My brief glance didn't see any other mistakes

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Old Mon Nov 02, 2009, 10:37am
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I don't think an article on officiating pay can be complete without discussing expenses.
Sprinkles are for winners.
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Old Mon Nov 02, 2009, 12:31pm
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I don't know if you care or not because you are in the ballpark on it, but the highest paid official right now in the NBA's BASE pay is 415k.
"players must decide the outcome of the game with legal actions, not illegal actions which an official chooses to ignore."
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Old Mon Nov 02, 2009, 01:07pm
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I wouldn't trust that askmen website. A few years ago the most senior NFL officials were making over $8,000 a game, it is probably even higher now. And the officials work 17 games per season not 16 as the article says. The season is 17 weeks long but teams only play 16 games. Also they work scrimmages and games during the preseason; they must be getting paid something for that.
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Old Wed Nov 04, 2009, 11:39pm
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Here are the 2010 NCAA tournament official reimbursements from Thanks to the fellow forum member who pointed it out. I love the transparency from the NCAA and wish there was more in officiating, particularly related to assignments. Well that's another story.

9. Officials’ fees and expenses, paid by direct deposit by the NCAA, shall be as follows: Transportation arrangements shall be made through the NCAA travel service, Short’s Travel, 866/655-9215. The Association will pay transportation expenses not to exceed coach air fare, or 51 cents per mile, but not including terminal or other local transportation; $75 per diem; and $1000 fee per opening-/first-/second-round game, $1,400 fee per regional game, $2,000 per national semifinal or championship game. Payment will be made from the national office in Indianapolis the week following the games. Officials’ room and tax will be paid by the host institution and reported on the host institution’s financial report. Two tickets shall be available for each official to purchase for any tournament session at the site he is officiating, whether he advances or not. Officials who are advancing to the next session shall be provided a seat for the game(s) they are not working, and officials who do not advance must use one of the two tickets they may purchase if they choose to attend the next session.

10. The standby official shall be in uniform, ready to work and seated at the official scorer’s table. If a standby official replaces a game official in the first half of a game, the standby official shall complete that half. In the event that the game official is able to return after the end of the halftime, the game official shall work the second half. If a standby official replaces a game official in the second half of the game, the standby official shall complete the game.

11. Standby officials shall be reimbursed $200 for the opening-round game and each first-/second-round game and $300 per game for subsequent rounds of the tournament. These fees are in addition to per diem and ground transportation expenses...
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Old Thu Nov 05, 2009, 06:44pm
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No doubt that's an interesting read. However, it goes without saying that for officials that are working at that level, for the most part those fees represent a significant pay cut in comparison to the games they work in the regular season.
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