Eighth-grade classroom to NFL gridiron: Meridian teacher reflects on tenure as replacement referee
We found Jim Core in the Sawtooth Middle School gymnasium setting up for a volleyball tournament. Jim teaches eighth-grade world geography at Sawtooth and serves as the school’s activities director. But inside Jim’s office, we found evidence of a Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
We found Jim Core, Monday, in the Sawtooth Middle School gymnasium setting up for a volleyball tournament. Jim teaches eighth-grade world geography at Sawtooth and serves as the school’s activities director.
But inside Jim’s office, we found evidence of a second life: a game-used NFL football.
“The first penalty [for which] I marched out,” Jim said, “NBC put it all over the place. There was no hiding from [my other job] at that point.”
Jim took his first job as a football referee in 1982. This last summer – now nearly a 30-year vet of high school, college and arena ball – Jim received a mass e-mail from the NFL seeking applications for replacement officials.
“That was about a four-level jump for me,” Jim said.
He passed the tests, aced his training and found himself officiating the season-opener in New York and the first Monday night game in Oakland the same week.
“Gene Simmons of Kiss is doing the national anthem,” Jim recalled. “He’s standing there right next to me and I’m going: OK, this is definitely not Smoky the Bear flipping the coin at a Boise Burn game.”
Beneath those bright lights, Jim believes he proved he belonged, handling millionaire professionals as readily as rowdy middle schoolers.
“They wanted to see what they could get away with,” Jim said of the NFL players. “That’s no different than what I deal with in the hallways here.”
Jim admitted hallway troublemakers on the home front changed their attitude after seeing him on television.
“It put me on a little different level,” he said, laughing.
It seemed the ability to regale classrooms with tales of disciplining gridiron gladiators did add some street cred.
“Eli Manning is a class, class act,” Jim said. “Offensive linemen for the Chargers were really good guys. Wasn’t real excited about their quarterback, [Phillip Rivers]. He was not the nicest guy.”
Monday, Jim found himself having not officiated a football game for two weeks in October for the first time in 26 years.
“I’m kind of not happy,” he said.
Just like the football he snagged from his final game as a pro, Jim the referee now spends autumn Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays unused, waiting for his next chance at the big time.
“If they called me on the phone,” Jim said, “I’d be on a plane in 10 minutes. Wherever they wanted me, whenever they wanted me.”