Much like the Super Bowl in the National Football League, college bowl games are played by the top teams in Division I college football and refereed by the top officials. While game officials earn salaries during regular-season games, they receive increased pay for working college-bowl games. The games generate millions of dollars in revenues for the NCAA and the colleges and universities involved.
Collegiate football is a spectator sport and the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary for referees for spectator sports at $27,050 annually as of 2010. In Division I college-football, referees work a total of 32 games, 27 non-BCS games and five BCS games. BCS games are meant to showcase the top teams in college football and those that are vying for a chance to play in the top bowl games -- the Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl. Based on calculations in a December 2007 article for Rivals.com, annual salaries for college referees is approximately $36,000.
College-football referees earn $1,500 for the 27 non-BCS games worked and $1,800 for BCS games they officiate, at the time of publication. For bowl games, these referees earn $1,800 per game. They also receive a watch as a bowl gift and $100 per diem for three days, along with transportation service to and from the stadium.
How They Are Picked
The selection of college-football referees for bowl games is taken very seriously by the NCAA and conference officials -- teams are grouped by conferences such as the Big 10 or Southeastern Conference. John Bible, a veteran college-football referee, states, "We know it is merit driven..." Reviews of all officials are submitted to the director of officials, David Parry, at the end of the regular season. Reviews are based on the evaluations of coaches and a technical adviser. Of the 55 officials in the Big 10, 28 are selected to work bowl games.
A Bowl's First
On Dec. 26, 2009, Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game. The game, the Little Ceasar's Bowl, featured Marshall versus Ohio. College-bowl referees work a full day for their salaries, and as illustrated by a Dec. 31, 2009 article for "The Week in Football," Thomas had pre-game and post-game briefings in addition to working the game. Thomas also provides an example of the number of college-football referees who work other jobs to earn a living. She works as a pharmaceutical sales representative.