After the coin toss and the National Anthem, the crew of officials huddle together, wish each other a good game and as we break the huddle, this is what we tell each other, “See the ball.”
In football, when a play ends, the nearest official sounds the whistle to indicate that the play is over and the ball is dead. Most fans think the whistle ended the play; but that is not true. The whistle sounds to indicate that the play has ended and that the ball is now dead. When the whistle ends a play, it stopped the play while the ball was still live — a mistake. If one of the officials sounds the whistle when he/she shouldn’t, the play is still ended and that is referred to as an “inadvertent whistle,” or “IW.” It is perhaps one of, if not the most, embarrassing mistake we can make. None of us is immune. Sooner or later every official is guilty of the infamous “IW.” Jerry Stovall - former LSU head coach, All-American, and NFL star with 3 Pro Bowls to his name - told me once, “There’s just nothing good you can say about an inadvertent whistle.” Ed Hochuli (NFL referee) would likely agree. It happened to Hochuli in a big game with the Denver Bronchos a few years ago that had playoff implications. It’s been tough for him to live down.
Football’s rules are perhaps the most complicated of any sport, and they are oriented towards two objectives. First and foremost is player safety. Second, the rules are designed to prevent one team from obtaining an unfair advantage over the other. Officials are under a certain amount of pressure from the rules, the coaches, and the parents of the student athletes to kill the play as soon as it is over in order to prevent injuries, especially late hits. Many times, the IW occurs when the covering official thinks the play is over and blows the whistle — without having clearly seen the ball.