Referees, NFL come to terms

Contract for 6 years

Sunday marks return

September 20, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Spurred by last week's terrorist attacks, the locked-out NFL officials agreed last night to a six-year contract that will put them back on the field for Sunday's resumption of the regular season.

Bill Carollo, the executive director of the NFL Referees Association, notified the league that the contract was ratified by a majority of the 119 officials who voted the past two days.

Although the actual vote was not released, union negotiator Tom Condon told the Associated Press the vote was about 2-to-1 to accept the package on the table. He also said the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that prompted a shutdown of last week's NFL schedule was the major stimulus in the officials' decision to return.

"You can't ignore the occurrences around the country and the fact that our concerns were pale in comparison," Condon said. "So we thought it was important to get back for the restart of the season."

The deal reportedly is worth the same monetary value as the package that was presented by the league on Sept. 4, although some specifics have been adjusted.

The officials will increase their salary by 50 percent in the first year of the contract, and achieve a 100 percent increase by Year 4. Salaries jump 70 percent in the second year and 90 percent in the third year.

Before the lockout, the NFL's last offer was for a 60 percent increase in the first year and a 100 percent increase in the second.

In 2000, a fifth-year official made $42,295 for the regular season. A 10th-year official made $64,215.

Condon said the union got as much as it could.

Curiously, Condon was absent from negotiations when a deal was reached. Carollo and Jeff Bergman, a member of the negotiating committee, represented the union, and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead negotiator, represented the league.

The package was put in place during a Sunday night meeting in Pittsburgh.

Carollo and Bergman were chosen because they were viewed as less confrontational than Ed Hochuli, the union president, who had done most of the negotiating since the contract expired in March. Hochuli was in touch with Carollo and Bergman throughout the final round of talks, however.

The league locked out the officials before the final preseason game in August, and hired replacement officials from the XFL, NFL Europe and the college ranks. The replacement officials were guaranteed four weeks' salary at $2,000 a week. They worked the final week of preseason games and the opening week of the regular season - without a major controversy.

The league originally set a deadline of noon yesterday to reach an agreement that would permit the officials to return for what will now be Week 2 of the regular season. Because of computer problems with the vote, the deadline was extended to the "close of business," according to league spokesman Joe Browne.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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