01/02/10 — Ivan Daniels officiates bowl game

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Ivan Daniels officiates bowl game

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 2, 2010 11:46 PM

He back-pedaled and watched the play unfold. The defensive back and receiver did the normal bumping as the football zipped through the air, but failed to find its mark. He signaled incomplete pass and hustled back to his position.

Such was the life of Ivan Daniels during the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Thursday evening at the Georgia Dome. The Goldsboro resident served as a back judge for the New Year's Eve battle between perennial powers Tennessee and No. 11-ranked Virginia Tech.

"Pretty excited," said Daniels of his postseason appointment.

"When you get selected to work a bowl game, it's a confirmation that you have worked a good season ... an honor (and) a reward."

Daniels, who has spent six seasons officiating Division I football, worked the third bowl game of his career. The Columbia (Miss.) native handled back judge duties in the 2006 Outback Bowl and 2008 Music City Bowl.

This contest had a unique twist, however.

The crew officiating the Chick-fil-A wasn't affiliated with one single conference. Daniels and his mates are members of the College Football Officials Association West, which is a combination of officials from three leagues -- Conference USA, Mountain West and Western Athletic.

Coaches offered mixed reviews about the first-year experiment. Unlike the Southeastern Conference or Atlantic Coast Conference, there is no "head official" to express discontent with game management or voice concerns over a particular call.

"That's probably the only drawback," said Daniels.

The main drawback for officials is the travel. Daniels has officiated games in Austin, Colorado Springs, Houston, Moscow (Idaho) and Albequerque -- not to mention other cities west of the Mississippi River -- this season.

Although Daniels arrives home late on Sundays, he doesn't always sleep on the flight. The officiating crew receives either an email or DVD of their performance, and the trip home is a perfect time for self-evaluation.

"It's a great visual aid for you, and you learn from your own mistakes," said Daniels. "It is much more advanced at the higher level as you move up the ladder. On Saturdays, the stress level is up pretty high (and) we know with the scrutiny that we have with TV and replay, and our grading system (for officiating), there is definitely a high level of accountability at the Division I level."

The accountability is on many levels, but mainly physical and mental.

The speed of the collegiate game has exploded over the past decade, and officials must stay physically fit to keep up with their responsibilities on each play. They also must have a superb reaction time to correctly interpret bang-bang plays that usually occur within a split second.

"Your reaction time has to be much faster and those are things you can't take for granted as a Division I official now," said Daniels, who works out three days a week and concentrates on cardio. "The sheer speed of the game has changed tremendously. Most of the action I follow is 15 to 20 yards down the field, and those are the plays that everybody in the stands tend to interpret on their own depending on what side of the stands they're sitting on.

"There is the challenge of everyone second-guessing (calls) and putting their spin on it."

On this night in Atlanta, Daniels and his fellow crew members don't get caught up in the pageantry of college football. They take the coaches' personalities out of the equation, like most good officials do. And like the Hokies and Volunteers, they make their own officiating adjustments at halftime.

Daniels certainly won't forget the event.

"It's like you're still playing because you're out there in the action," said Daniels of the Saturday afternoons and bowl experiences. "I enjoy meeting new people and seeing other parts of the country. I enjoy the rush from the roar of the crowd. I am very grateful and very humble by just having the opportunity to do that."