Negotiations between the NFL and its referees have broken down, so the league will start hiring new officials immediately and training them next month, according to ESPN.com.
We were warned that this might happen, but at the time it seemed like a power play. Apparently it's reality, for now, as the NFL and the NFLRA couldn't get a deal hammered out over the weekend. So of course the two sides are taking shots at each other.
Unsurprisingly, the Referees Association thinks that the idea of bringing in anyone else is a terrible idea. The counsel repping the refs, Mike Arnold, had a doom and gloom statement.
"It is unfortunate that as referees' responsibilities are expanded that the NFL would jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game by seeking amateur, underqualified referees to administer professional games."
That's one way to get the players to take a side in this.
The NFL wasn't quite as direct in their statements.
"Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games."
The NFL plans on hiring referees from Arena football and small college divisions. The NFL won't bring in any officials from BCS conferences; those refs are run by the NFL refs and that might just make things weird. in 2001, replacement refs worked one preseason and one regular season game before a new deal was worked out.