What Do College Football Referees Get Paid?

    College football referees are at the center of the game we all love, but what do they get paid to ensure the safety and standards are upheld?

    College football referees often don’t get the credit they deserve. It is a thankless task, and whether they make the best decision in the world or not, sections of the audience won’t be happy.

    Given the complexity of their roles and the split-second decisions that must be made, you would expect that college football referees would be compensated well. Let’s find out how much college football referees are paid.

    How Much Do College Football Referees Earn?

    Despite doing a similar role with just as much scrutiny, college football referees are paid less than their NFL counterparts. Those refs officiating the pro game earn an average of around $205,000. That is significantly more than those who officiate at the collegiate level, with an average of around $53,000 earned by college referees, according to Comparably.com.

    Although $53,000 is the average, the actual pay difference between college football referees can be stark. The pay banding is broad, with the compensation range paid to college referees starting out at $24,117 and topping out at $237,893.

    College referees are estimated to average between $2,500 and $3,000 per game.

    The pay for referees is variable and is influenced by state, conference, and experience. While the referees of the biggest games in the sport also get paid more.

    Those refs who are chosen to officiate games outside of the regular season earn a higher amount. Expenses are also paid out to referees, including flights or mileage.

    It is also reported that there are bonuses paid to college referees based on their performances; essentially, the accuracy of their decisions is reviewed. The average bonus is estimated to be $2,000.

    MORE: College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    The higher end of the salary range is likely for full-time college football referees, who are in the conferences that generate the most income, such as the SEC and Big Ten.

    However, college referees don’t need to be full-time. Plenty of referees contracted by the NCAA have other jobs. Many take up roles outside of football for the offseason and during the week. This means the additional salary earned from officiating games becomes a lucrative option.

    While lucrative, it is also time-consuming, especially during the season when the role of a college football ref is a full-time responsibility. It is a mammoth task, and referees put themselves at risk for the love of the game.

    Speaking to USAToday in 2019, Steve Shaw — the head of SEC officiating — talked about the sacrifice referees make. Not only do they give up their whole weekends on long trips, but they must also ensure their “background check [is] clean. No social media activity. No gambling.”

    Shaw also spoke about how it is difficult for referees to have their integrity questioned. Meanwhile, the behavior of some fans has led to the FBI speaking to officials about how to keep themselves safe at the start of each season.

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

    Related Articles