By Whitney Becker, Sports Editor
After much debate and four weeks into the season, it seems that the NFL and regular referees have reached an agreement that has fans cheering.
The NFL referees voted on an eight-year deal Saturday, approving the contract with an overwhelming 112 officials in favor and only five against. The contract called for a salary increase that would reach $173,000 by 2013, and peaks at $205,000 by the year 2019.
A pension plan is already set in place for current officials. Referees that have worked in the NFL for 20 years will also receive this plan.
After 2016, the pension plan will be frozen and newly hired referees and all officials will receive retirement benefits starting in 2017 through a previously determined contribution arrangement.
On the other hand, the NFL will be able to hire officials to work all year long while also retaining officials for training and development purposes. The NFL will also be free to assign those officials to work games.
What might have spurred the two sides into such a quick compromise?
Well, for one thing, a questionable last minute call in the Packers-Seahawks matchup on Monday Night Football resulted in a huge upset when they ruled a Seahawks touchdown instead of a Packers interception.
This sparked much controversy, and resulted in escalating criticism of the league as well as the commissioner, Roger Goodell. This, and the outrage about calls game after game led to scrambling by the NFL and the regular referees as the met in Irving, TX to vote.
The official referees were welcomed back to the game on Thursday during the Ravens-Browns game in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, receiving thunderous applause as they entered the stadium and took the field. Of course, this could only last so long and soon boos echoed throughout the stadium for the regular officials.
The difference this time was that the regular referees kept the game under control and quickly acted on any skirmishes that ensued.
The message was loud and clear: regular referees have gained the long-standing respect of coaches, players and fans, something the replacement officials lacked during their three week officiating spree.
So we can finally say so long to the fines, penalties and shaky knowledge of the NFL rulebook left behind with the replacement refs.
This deal has players, coaches and fans alike happy and comfortable as they hover over their television sets, knowing the games will be in good hands for many seasons to come.