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Lucivansky gets the NFL call

Jon Lucivansky makes the call at the goal line in a Big Ten game between the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University.

Jon Lucivansky has been climbing up the ranks of football officiating since 1982. He has now reached the summit.

Lucivansky has been hired by the National Football League to become one of the 120 officials who preside over NFL games each Sunday during the pro football season.

Lucivansky, 46, serves as associate principal at New Richmond High School on weekdays. On weekends, he has been a highly regarded football and basketball official for many years.

For the past seven years, Lucivansky has served as a football official for the Big Ten Conference. Lucivansky has been on the list of officials being considered for an NFL position for several years, since he officiated in NFL Europe in 2004. In December he was informed that he had moved up to a finalist position as the NFL looks to fill vacant officiating positions each year.

"They were pretty clear that it was rare to get in on your first year as a finalist," Lucivansky said. At the end of the interview, he was told by the NFL to continue to focus on his Big Ten Conference assignments for next fall.

As a finalist, Lucivansky was flown to New York City to interview with league officials. The NFL offices take up five floors of a skyscraper.

"It's a huge, huge operation," Lucivansky said. He said many of the offices don't deal directly with on-the-field issues, but things like accounting, marketing, and corporate counsel.

Lucivansky said he thought he handled the interview process well, but thought that was the end of the subject for this season.

Then came "the call," or rather the voice message, on Feb. 27. Lucivansky's seven-year-old daughter had been playing with the family cell phone and he located the phone in her purse. He noticed there was a phone message. It was from Mike Pereira, the head of officials for the NFL. When Lucivansky returned the call, Perrera offered him the job as an NFL official.

"It's been a whirlwind ever since," Lucivansky said.

He has had meeting with NFL officials. He took a trip to New Jersey for a two-hour meeting with a psychologist. He spent more than five hours doing paperwork for an NFL background check and psychological profile.

"It's been a thorough process, not to mention a whole medical work-up, which will be a yearly event," Lucivansky said.

Lucivansky is one of eight new NFL officials for the 2009 season. He will be the only NFL official from Wisconsin. Long-time NFL referee Bill Carollo retired this year to become the head of officials for the Big Ten Conference.

"Bill's been a mentor of mine since 2004 when the NFL took me to NFL Europe," Lucivansky said.

Lucivansky's schedule with the NFL will really kick in on May 15. There will be a great deal of studying involved to learn the different way the rules are enforced in the NFL compared to college ball.

"There are a lot of nuances where their rules are considerably different from the college football rule book," Lucivansky said.

The head of NFL Security will come to New Richmond to hold a one-on-one meeting with Lucivansky. In May Lucivansky will learn his crew assignment. He will be field judge or side judge, the same assignments he worked in the Big Ten.

The NFL Referees Assocation has clinics planned during the summer. Lucivansky will work several days at an NFL training camp. In August his crew will work four NFL pre-season games before jumping into the regular season schedule.

Each NFL officiating crew works 15 games, getting one week off during the regular season.

The NFL is a far reach from where Lucivansky started as an official. He started out working middle school, freshman and JV games while he was a student at the University of Minnesota.

Lucivansky said he hopes he will make a reasonably smooth adjustment to the NFL after having worked some of the higher profile games for the Big Ten Conference over the last several years.

He said a bigger adjustment may be at the local level. He said he's been warned that his identity will change. He said he's always viewed himself as a school principal who happens to be a Big Ten official. He said many people now will view him as an NFL official who happens to be a high school principal.

"I won't let my avocation take away from my vocation," Lucivansky said.

In fact, Lucivansky said the position with the NFL will likely give him a more stable school schedule. He said his travel will generally be on Saturday mornings and Sunday nights. He said he has also resigned from collegiate basketball officiating to concentrate on his position with the NFL.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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