:: ABOUT US - History ::
In 1922, Armstrong, Eichelberger, Paul Wilkinson, Mike Thompson and George Hoban, a
coach at Poly, began meeting at the Arundel Hotel located at the corner of Charles Street
and Mt. Vernon Place. They met to form the Maryland Board of Football Officials (MBFO).
Eight decades later, the board would grow to more than 100 members and provide service
to 60 high schools.
When the Maryland Board was formed, a varsity game crew consisted of only three
members: Referee, Umpire and Field Judge. The home school supplied the Head
Linesman. Once a team moved inside the 10 yard line, the linesman was not allowed to
make any calls for fear that there would be favoritism shown when either team was in a
position to score.
There were not many locations in Baltimore where the games could be played. Private
schools scheduled games on their own grounds. Public schools played at sites such as Mt.
Washington, Homewood Field, and Clifton Park. Kirk Field had not been constructed and
games had not yet been scheduled at the Old Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street.
The Maryland Board's first Manual of Rules was printed in 1930. The manual consisted of
rules and mechanics based on a book formulated by Walter Hutchins, then head of the
Southern Conference. Officials basically wore white pants, white shirts and dark stockings
without caps prior to the manual. Hutchins' book introduced striped shirts and black bow
ties, the forerunner of the uniforms, we wear today.
After 1930, the number of schools in the Baltimore area that fielded football teams grew to
about 15 and the need for more officials became acute. One of the young officials who
came into the fledgling MBFO was a young sportswriter for the Baltimore Evening Sun
named Paul Menton. Menton rose within the Maryland Board by working games for such
teams as Southern, City, Poly, Gilman, Loyola, Calvert Hall, St. Joe, Patterson Park, and
McDonough. He was later to work his way up through the high school ranks to work the
Rose Bowl. Menton took over the responsibility of assigning the group's membership to
games by the mid-1930's, thus becoming the first Commissioner of the Maryland Board.
Menton, by his presence as assigning commissioner, became the driving force behind the
group. He would hold the reins of scholastic sports in Baltimore until the early 1960's when
he retired as the Evening Sun’s Sports Editor and from the MBFO commissionership just
prior to his death a few years later.
The Maryland Board had a membership of about 30 officials by 1938. Some of these men
included Vince Carlin, Otts Helm, Hap Enright, Dave Kaufman, Jim Lackey, Herb Armstrong,
and Ed Houseman of the Gilman School. Paul Menton, in addition to assigning games,
continued to work several each season. However, few games were available for new
members. Rookie officials had to work their way up through the junior varsity games on
Wednesdays and Thursdays for a few years until they earned the privilege of working varsity
games on Fridays and Saturdays. One of those officials was Henry Munder. Munder joined
the Maryland Board in 1939 after a fine career as a linesman for the University of Baltimore.
Munder recalled that after working his way up through the junior varsity games, varsity
assignments came quickly during the war years. "With Paul Menton, if you learned your job
well, you could expect to work every Thursday, Friday, sometimes double headers on
Saturdays and once in a while, a Sunday game at a military institution. Paul Menton had a
simple and effective philosophy about your conduct on the field. It was be decisive, throw the
flag and act like you know what you're doing. You'll make people believe you, and they'll think
you know what you're doing." Others whom Paul Menton taught the same philosophy were
John Donohue, who also worked several top bowl games after starting out in the Maryland
Board, and now retired after 15 years in the NFL a participant in three Super Bowls.
Vince Carlin was one of the framers of the Board's first constitution drafted during the period
following the Depression and the dawning of World War II. The Board's early constitution
stated that you had to be white, and a former member of a college football team. Those
requirements changed in 1954 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in
Brown vs. Board of Education that outlawed racial segregation in public schools.
Subsequently, the Board opened its membership to several outstanding black officials who
served the board well over the ensuing years: Charles Brown, who later won the Menton
Award, Cyril Byron, the Late Lamar Quarles, Pat Patterson, Reggie Watts, Al Cottman, and
Frederick Jackson. By this time, the membership of the Maryland Board also included
several top officials in college divisions such as the Southern Conference, the ECAC, CIAA
and later the ACC.
The emergence of the Baltimore County School’s football program in 1965 had a major
impact on the MBFO. At least a dozen new teams had to be serviced and more officials were
needed. No longer would younger members of the board be required to serve several years
of apprenticeship at the freshman and J.V. levels. Varsity officials were needed in a hurry.
The late 1960's and early 1970's saw the biggest recruitment drive ever. To meet the needs
of the schools, the board made several revisions to the constitution and bylaws. Applicant
and probationary training classes were started for new members. Applicants had to move
up from these classes before they were granted full membership status. The membership
of the board at the time numbered about 70 to 80 men. A strong recruiting drive continued
and the membership subsequently swelled to more than 100 officials, where it has
remained up to the present time. In 1984, Debbie Weinberg became the first female
applicant of the Maryland Board. She is still an active member and works varsity and junior
Since the board's main function is to service high schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore
County, its scope of responsibility has been somewhat limited to the development of
officials whose sole responsibility is the mastery of rules and mechanics relative to games
played by those schools. That became evident when in 1977; schools in both of those
jurisdictions adopted the rules established by the National Federal of High School
The MBFO can be proud of the many members of the group who also are active in several
college football conferences such as the ECAC and MEAC. A few members hold dual
membership with officiating associations in Anne Arundel, Carroll, and Harford Counties.
Many also work semi-pro football. The Maryland Board has had several members who have
officiated in the NFL, including Henry Munder, Bernie Ulman, Ligouri Hagerty, John
Donohue, and Supervisor of NFL Officials, Ron DeSouza.
The MBFO currently services the Baltimore County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public
Schools and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association. The membership provides
timers, and chain crews for the Baltimore Ravens, Morgan State University, Towson State
University and the University of Maryland. All members are registered with the Maryland
State Secondary School Association (MPSSAA).
The MBFO has had an Assigning Commissioner since 1934. The commissioner assigns,
evaluates and reviews the performance of the officials during games. He also investigates
complaints from schools and all ejections of players/coaches from games.
The MBFO has had six Assigning Commissioners:
- A. Paul Menton 1934 to 1966 Deceased
- Fred Leidig 1967 to 1969 Deceased
- Ed Hargaden 1970 to 1986 Deceased
- Norm Brewer 1987 to 1988 Deceased
- Jim Diggs 1989 to 1994 Active Member
- Leon Jones 1995 to 2008 Active Member
- Steve Smith 2009 to Present Active Member
The game fees and expenses have changed significantly since the MBFO was established.
Junior Varsity - $2.50 (2 officials)
Varsity - $6.50 (3 officials)
Association Dues - $4.50.
Equipment and uniforms - $35.00.
Junior Varsity - $42.50 (3 or 4 officials)
Varsity - $52.50 (4 or 5 officials)
It now costs approximately $300.00 to buy the required equipment and uniforms. The
association dues are $60.00 and are supplemented by other fundraisers. A portion of the
dues ($25.00) goes toward MPSSAA dues and rulebooks. The annual banquet cost of
$23.00 is included in the dues. The association also pays 1/2 of the banquet cost for the
retired members who attend the banquet.
*Revised from 75th Anniversary Program (Dec 1997).
A few years prior to 1922, some area colleges and high
schools began football programs. Herb Armstrong and Maury
Eichelberger, who had officiated games in which Jim Thorpe
played in Carlisle, PA, were coming to grips with a growing
crisis: there were not enough men to enforce the rules of the
game as played by the few high schools that had fielded
teams. "We had no more than eight officials around town in
those days. Even though most of the men officiated college
football, we realized we had to set up some kind of a program
on the high school level to handle the games sanctioned by the
Maryland Scholastic Association which had been formed three
year before," Armstrong recalled.