Five Minutes with Bernie Kukar

By Carl S. Ey

Bernie Kukar was the referee at Super Bowl XXXIV.  His first experience with the Super Bowl was as an alternate in Super Bowl XXX and his second effort was as the referee during Super Bowl XXXIII.

Referee:  What is the difference between being the referee at a Super Bowl vice refereeing a regular season game.

Kukar:  There is a lot of hype and things that we have to get involved with in the Super Bowl that you don’t have to in a regular season game.  You have press conferences, meetings with various individuals and groups.  During the regular season, we don’t have any of that; we just get prepared for the game.  We have pre-game meetings, film reviews and that type of thing.  We still do that at the Super Bowl but much more so in the Super Bowl.

Referee:  One of the challenges in the Super Bowl is that you don’t have the same crew.  Instead you have a new group of guys to work the game.  Can you elaborate on getting used to a new crew for a game with this magnitude?

Kukar:  You have to keep in mind that these guys were rated number one at their position for the season, which means they are awfully good officials.  As far as the mechanics of officiating are concerned, I don’t see much difference with any official that I have worked with regularly in a crew and the new guys that get selected to do this game.  It may involve a bit more communication because you are not quite sure exactly what they are going to do, whereas with your regular crew you know what they are going to do every game.

Referee:  Is there anything particular about this Super Bowl that influenced you during your pre-game meetings that made an impact in your mind prior to addressing your crew?

Kukar:  You understand the magnitude of it all; this is probably the premier sporting event in the world and that sets you mind thinking, Ok, you better get things done properly here.  The last time I was involved with the Super Bowl, there were over 130 million viewers in the United States and a quarter of a billion, worldwide.  You understand the impact that this game has worldwide.

Referee:  Was there any call in this Super Bowl that you wish you could have had back?

Kukar:  Absolutely not.  The only play was the holding penalty after the Rams quarterback fumbled the ball and the Patriots ran it backs 99 yards for a touchdown; I certainly tried to talk the head linesman out of that penalty.  I gave him every opportunity to back off but he held fast.  He was convinced it was a hold and I kept hammering him.  However, I did see it on television last night on the replay and it was definitely a hold.  It was a good call.

Referee:  Could you give the high school official, just getting into officiating, some advice on how to get to your level?

Kukar:  I think the main thing that you have to do to get to this level is you have to have confidence in yourself.  Secondly, you have to have pretty darn good judgment.

Referee:  Why did you start officiating?

Kukar:  I think it gave me the opportunity to stay in football after I graduated from college.  When I graduated in the early 1960′s, there weren’t many opportunities.  I came out of a small college in Minnesota – St. John’s Univesrsity – which is a Division III school now, so if you wanted to stay anywhere near the game, you officiated.  I liked the game and wanted to stay around it and I still enjoy it.

Referee:  What are your thoughts on instant replay?

Kukar:  I think it is a good thing.  Let’s face it, in this business, plays happen so fast and there is so many big people out there, that a lot of times you just can’t see certain things.  If it involves a play that will determine the outcome of the game and you just couldn’t see it, instant replay can help you out; all the better.  All we want to do is call the plays correctly.  As far as I am concerned, it is an officiating tool.

Referee:  The follow-up question is do you think that instant replay allows officials to get lazy, thinking they can refer to the instant replay?

Kukar:  Not a chance.  Nobody would approach it that way.  Not a chance.

Referee:  What happens now that you are done with the game?

Kukar:  I am staying around, relaxing and enjoying the sites; New Orleans is a good city for that.

Referee:  What was your best Super Bowl”

Kukar:  Last night.

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