August 22nd, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Matt Austin

Kay Whelan

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Matt Austin
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Long-time referee helps keep CSAA football running smoothly

The following feature is a part of a weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland, called "Hyland's Heroes" - a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero”? Send your recommendation

Matt Austin - Former KFOA Supervisor of Officials

The Catholic School Athletic Association has been most successful with its Football program because of the support of the Kentucky Football Officials Association. For the past 5 years the Supervisor of Officials was Matt Austin, who worked hand-in-hand with the league and our office. Matt is a native of Brooklyn, Michigan who attended Columbia Central high school there and participated in football, baseball, basketball, tennis and golf. Now that he has “retired” from his supervisor role, his reflections on CSAA Football may provide insight for us all. Plus, he now has more time to share with his wife, Julie and their two children: Lindsey a junior at UK and Jake, a senior at Kentucky Country Day.

When and how did you get your start with the CSAA? Why so?

I began officiating CSAA games when I moved to Louisville in 1990. I became the Supervisor of Officials where I assigned the officials to the CSAA games in 2007.

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved?  

I always thought I wanted to be a coach growing up.  I began officiating baseball my first year out of high school and I was hooked. Football followed the next year then basketball. When Julie and I moved to Louisville she suggested I pick one sport to work.


What sports did you coach and for how long? 

Actually I did coach a few sports over the years. HS football for four years in Michigan as well as women’s volleyball for two years and a couple of youth teams my son was on. Then I was able to coach my daughter in softball in her senior year at Country Day. As far as officiating goes I’ve worked HS football for over 30 years as well as college football for the past 15 years.


What's the connection with your faith and giving your time to these young student athletes? 

As officials our interaction is very limited with the kids. However we take our job as officials very seriously.  We are the only people at the games who do not have a stake in the outcome. Players, coaches and fans can become very emotional and it’s our job to keep our composure and make sure no one involved in the game gets an unfair advantage over their opponent. 

Who was the most influential person on your officiating career?  Why?  

I’ve been lucky to have many mentors within the KFOA that have helped to make me a better official.  Carl (Fuzzy) Klusman and Butch Stovall are two officials I’ve tried to model myself after and George Mercker gave me my start in college football officiating.


But I’d have to say that Paul Schmitt has had the biggest impact on my career. When I became a referee at the college level I sought out Paul to help me with my mechanics and penalty announcements. He attended several of my games and gave me written critiques. This along with helping me breakdown film of my games has made me a much better official than I ever could have been without him.

What are your major themes/principles as an official? 

Our only goal is to the keep the game fair for both teams and to make sure it’s played safely within the rules. As kids get bigger and faster the hits become much more violent and the possibility of injury becomes greater. We need to be vigilant to make sure the hits are legal and performed with the proper technique, meaning that the head and neck are protected as much as possible. If a tackler lowers his head and contacts the ball carrier with the top of his head it is a foul and needs to be called.


Coaches and parents boo us all the time for making this call but they need to realize that the rules are in place to protect the kid making the hit who is much more prone to injury in this case than the one being tackled. Recent studies show that injuries to the head at this level can be just as severe as the ones that happen in the NFL.

What does officiating bring to you, your family?  

It gives me the opportunity to stay involved in a game that I love and to give back to the KFOA. And to be able to work in some of the greatest stadiums in the country is a tremendous experience. My family has always been very supportive of me and thankfully they all love college football and like to go to as many games as they can. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to work some bowl games and it’s great to have the family be able to experience that with me.


What are the fondest experiences or memories you have of officiating? 

The camaraderie that we have in the KFOA. I’ve been very lucky and honored to have been involved in some of the biggest college games in the last couple of years, and they’ve been wonderful experiences. And there is nothing like getting booed by 100,000 fans. But no matter where the games are or who the teams are nothing beats the thrill of walking onto the field with three or four other guys from our association. In our private lives we may not have anything in common but when we put on the stripes and walk out onto that football field we are brothers. And there is no place we’d rather be. 


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