BEAVER TOWNSHIP – The upcoming college football season marks the 31st for Boardman resident and Atlantic Coast Conference grid official, Rob Luklan.
With 24 years of experience on the Division I level, the 2022 season is also his 10th as a back judge in one of the Power-5 conferences, a league that boasts two – Clemson University won both – national championships over the past six years.
Luklan has officiated multiple prime time games during his college tenure, noting the No. 1 directive from his bosses and the NCAA remains the safety of all players.
“As an official, game management is big but safety for players is paramount,” he told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center. “The NCAA also puts an emphasis on no taunting and I couldn’t agree more. Keeping taunting out of the game helps with game management while high hits, especially those that occur near the head, is something officials always err on the side of safety.”
Fans can once again expect multiple rules changes in 2022, one of which is the NCAA’s proposal to permit blocking below the waist but only for interior linemen.
A veteran of 14 postseason assignments – Luklan’s most recent game was the TransPerfect Music City Bowl Dec. 30 when Purdue defeated Tennessee, 48-45 in overtime – his crew last season also welcomed the ACC’s first female on-field official in Karina Tovar, a field judge.
“The Atlantic Coast Conference added their first female official last season and I had the honor of working with her when she was assigned to our crew. She is an excellent official who really knows the game,” added Luklan, who has worked 267 Division I games – in addition to the ACC, he also worked in the Big Ten and Mid-American Conferences – and 330 overall when adding his time with the Ohio Athletic Conference. “I feel great and would love to remain on the field as long as possible. When the time does come to call it quits, then I would definitely consider becoming a replay official.”
Of the 64 teams that comprise Power-5 conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – Luklan has yet to be assigned to just 11 of those teams.
The offseason for college officials is anything but down time.
“I’ll get my assignments for the upcoming season in June then in July, the league hosts all officials for a three-day clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina,” Luklan stated. “Current and former on-field officials from the NFL come in to teach us a variety of things we should expect while we go through physical-agility tests, written tests and watch hours of game film. The days are long, lasting in upwards of 14 hours but it is all done to prepare us for the upcoming season. Dennis Hennigan is our director of officials, is excellent at his job and does a fantastic job of training us.”
Luklan, who has already worked two spring games – Syracuse on April 1 and Pitt on April 9 – also begins his 10th season this year as ACC liaison for Pitt University practices. He has also officiated Wednesday practices for the Cleveland Browns the past 12 seasons and last year was requested for Pittsburgh Steelers’ mid-week practices.
“My responsibility with Pitt is to make sure to take care of coach [Pat] Narduzzi’s needs,” he stated. “I will coordinate their practice days and times to make sure they have officials while other ACC officials are also designated a team to assist in their practices and needs. With the Browns and Steelers, they need officials so they can cut down on their game day miscues.”
Luklan’s officiating career began at age 23 when he worked area scholastic games for the Youngstown Football Officials Association.
Five years later he was selected to the Ohio Athletic Conference officiating staff, working under the guidance and tutelage of its then supervisor of officials and local resident, Dr. Larry Glass.
“I consider Dr. Glass my mentor,” Luklan noted. “He had patience with me, always gave me guidance and direction and I cannot thank him enough for all that he has done to advance my career.”
In addition to Glass and Hennigan, Luklan credits former NFL official Dick Creed, fellow OAC officials Brian Meenachan and crew chief Ken Swanson, MAC and ACC replay official Jim Visingardi, who joined him at Monday’s meeting, Big Ten officials Tom Krispinsky and Julius Livas, former Big Ten and NFL supervisor of officials Bob Walker and area high school heads of officials, the late Fred Vicarel, Mike Butch, the late Dutch Miller and John Mang as others instrumental in advancing his career.
Next Monday, Bernie Profato, commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Commission, will serve as guest speaker.