Panguitch resident to referee FCS football championship game

Referee Kelly Holman calls a holding penalty during a Southern Utah University football game, Cedar City, Utah, date of photo not specified | Photo courtesy of Kelly Holman, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — When the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision stages its upcoming national championship game, a resident of Panguitch will be on the field.

Referee Kelly Holman (in background) follows the action at a Weber State University football game in Ogden, Utah, date of photo not specified | Photo courtesy of Kelly Holman, St. George News / Cedar City News

Kelly Holman, a veteran sports official who has refereed many college and high school contests over the years, will be among a seven-man crew of Big Sky officials traveling to Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 11, when North Dakota State will be looking to defend its FCS crown against James Madison University of Virginia.

The NCAA’s Division I FCS subdivision comprises the football teams of some 124 colleges and universities whose programs tend to be smaller than those of the 128 schools that are part of the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Holman, who will serve as the head referee for the title game, says it will be the first time he’s worked a national championship. He’s the only official from Utah who will be working the game.

“The whole crew is from the Big Sky Conference,” Holman told Cedar City News. “I don’t have anyone from my current crew on this playoff crew, but I do have my umpire and line judge from last year. I’ve worked with all seven officials in the past, including our replay official, so we’re all familiar with each other.”

Holman has been a familiar sight on playing fields and gymnasium floors throughout Southern Utah for more than three decades. He said he first started out as a basketball referee after taking an officiating class from Dr. Steve Lunt at what was then Southern Utah State College (now Southern Utah University) back in 1984.

“I started (officiating) football a year later, in 1985,” Holman said. “Not being from a football school, football officiating was brand new, and the learning curve was pretty difficult at the time. However, I just kept at it.”

Holman has also worked behind the plate as a high school baseball and softball umpire, although it’s been several years since he has officiated those sports. He currently helps with softball at Panguitch High School, where he also teaches seminary and is the principal for the school’s seminary program for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Referee Kelly Holman watches Cedar’s Treyton Tebbs dribble the ball against Stansbury during the 11th annual Hodson Cancer Classic, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 27, 2019 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Holman and his wife, JoAnn, are the parents of six children. Their youngest daughter, Abbee, is a sophomore at Panguitch High, where she plays volleyball, basketball and softball, in addition to running track.

Holman said he first started working as a collegiate football official in the mid-1990s. He was hired to officiate in the Big Sky Conference in 2003, first as a head linesman. Three years later, he became a referee.

Holman said he enjoys working as an official, notwithstanding the pressure that the job sometimes involves.

“It’s a unique role with all the replay now,” he said. “People have cell phones, and they can video everything – and in slow motion. It’s a unique part of the game, but it’s a necessary part of the game. But I don’t know of any officials who aren’t out there trying to do their best to be as fair as possible.”

“It might not seem like it sometimes to the fans, but officials have a role, just like the players and the coaches do,” Holman added.

The FCS championship game will feature No. 1 ranked North Dakota State, which has won the national title seven of the past eight years and is undefeated at 15-0 so far this season. The Bison will be facing the No. 2 ranked James Madison University Dukes, who won the 2016 FCS title but lost to North Dakota State in the championship game the following year by a score of 17-13. 

Click here to read more about the upcoming FCS championship game, which is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. local time (10 a.m. MST) on Jan. 11. It will be televised live on ABC.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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