Youth and Recreational Football Officials
Pay at the youth and recreational football levels varies significantly. In a few cases, officials may even be volunteers. Sometimes pay will be hourly and other times it will be per game. Pay ranges from $8-$40 an hour to $13-$30 per game.
High School Football Officials
High school football officials make anywhere from $48-$205 per game. Their pay varies by level (JV vs varsity), state, crew size, and game type, such as regular or postseason.
In Texas, one of the highest paying states for football officials, refs working varsity football games make at least $105 per game, increasing to $210 per game for those traveling farther than 91 miles. JV rates start at $75 and go as high as $120. Texas is one of the few states that factors in both money made at the gate and mileage into a sports official’s pay rate.
Many states haven’t raised their pay in years, but as they face referee shortages, some are making changes. Florida just significantly increased pay rates for football officials who will now make $111 a game, after making $65 a game for the past six years. In Utah, JV officials make $59 per game, varsity make $74, and post season pays $80 per game. In South Carolina, referees get paid between $55 and $74 per game during the regular season, plus 45 cents per mile for travel. Kentucky pays $65 for a regular season varsity game with postseason fees starting at $100 and going up to $145. Indiana pays $70-$90 per football game and Colorado pays $48 for JV and $62 for varsity.
College Football Officials
College football officials can make up to $3000 per game. Often, that pay also has to cover travel and hotel expenses although sometimes vouchers are provided. Exact pay depends on the division, conference, and type of game, such as a regular season, conference championship, or bowl game.
NCAA Division I conferences pay significantly more than Division II, and Division III. In the SEC, football officials are typically paid between $800 and $3,000 per game. According to Bill Carollo, Officiating Coordinator for the Big Ten, Big Ten officials get paid $3,000 per game. According to Terry McAulay, former Officiating Coordinator for the American Athletic Conference, the American pays each official between $2,200 to $2,500 per game. Bob Bowlsby, Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, declined to reveal how much the Big 12 pays officials, saying it’s proprietary information and that they are “well compensated.” In contrast, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), a Division II conference, pays its officials $175 a game.
Most top FBS conferences use teams of seven officials for each game. This includes the referee, umpire, down judge, line judge, field judge, side judge and back judge. Known as the crew chief, the referee is the head official, with the other six team members responsible for specific areas of the field. The referee usually earns the highest compensation as the leader of the team of officials.
The NFL currently employs 121 officials making up their crew of referees, umpires, down judges, line judges, field judges, side judges and back judges. In 2019, NFL officials were paid on average $205,000 per year plus they receive a 401k contribution from the NFL. That’s an approximate increase of $56,000 from previous years as part of a new collective bargaining agreement through the 2025 season. This typically covers 19 game assignments including preseason, and other assignments such as training camps, offseason OTAs, and officiating clinics. Playoff assignments are paid from a separate pool.