Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2 alums working Armed Forces Bowl today

If you're watching the Armed Forces Bowl today in TCU's own Amon G. Carter Stadium, pay extra attention to the officiating crew. Yes, the game pits the Air Force Falcons and Houston Cougars, but there's two Horned Frogs out there as well.

The game's referee is Matt Loeffler '86, former equipment manager for the TCU football team in the F.A. Dry and Jim Wacker days. Up in the replay booth is Bill Merritt '69, former Horned Frog golfer. Both are referees with the Sun Belt Conference.

Today's game is the first either of them has worked as a ref in Amon G. Carter Stadium, and the moment is not lost on either of them.

"Since I work most Saturdays in the fall, I'm excited to see the additions to the stadium," said Loeffler, who has worked in the Sun Belt six seasons, three of them as a referee. "I spent a lot of time on that field and being back there will bring back a lot of memories."

Merritt, who has been a ref for 34 years, including the last four as a replay official, had previously worked a couple of scrimmages for former TCU coach Dennis Franchione.

"It is going to be a thrill for me to work a bowl game in my alma mater's stadium. I'm excited," said Merritt, who's working his fourth bowl game.

Both men are members of the Dallas Football Officials Association and started at the pee wee level before working though junior high and high school to the college ranks. It's a side job.

Merritt is a mortgage banking officer in Dallas, while Loeffler owns a glass/window business in Rockwall.

"I just enjoy being a part of the pagentry of college football," said Loeffler, who started as a back judge. "I enjoy the challenge of it. Every snap, you don't know what will be thrown at you. You meet a lot of people and get to be part of the game."

Merritt just loves the game of football.

"It's good exercise, although it's harder for me to keep up with the athletes," Merritt said. "I was going to retire, but then I had a chance to move up to the booth. Deep down, we're all still competitors."

Merritt and Loeffler say they hope for a clean, penalty-free, replay-free game.

"Never had one of those," Merritt said.

- Rick

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