Officiating a Passion for Kyle DeBuse '94

Officiating a Passion for Kyle DeBuse '94

Friday, August 31, 2018

A twist of fate landed Kyle DeBuse a spot as a football official, but hard work and a passion for the job has kept him in that role for more than 20 years.

DeBuse, a 1994 Midland Lutheran College graduate, is in his first season as a fulltime Big 10 Conference football official in 2018.

DeBuse began refereeing at the youth sports level during his days at Midland. But he started to make his climb up the officiating ladder in 1997 when a temporary job layoff forced him to seek extra income. "I got laid off at Valmont," DeBuse said. "I was married and needed money, so I looked into football officiating. If I hadn't gotten laid off, I'm not sure I would have ever got into officiating."

DeBuse returned to Valmont after a brief layoff and 21 years later, he remains with the company as a regional sales manager. But when his job returned, the itch to be a football official remained with him.

Thanks to encouragement and assistance from former Midland basketball coach Rich McGill and Midland alum Tom Walker, both officials themselves, DeBuse started working high school games around the metro area and would continue in that role for a decade. DeBuse then started working games in the Great Plains Athletic Conference in 2006 and eventually made his way to the Division I ranks, joining a Mid-American Conference crew in 2011. His work over the past seven years would include the MAC title game in 2013 and appearances as an official in four collegiate bowl games.

His work as a back judge and side judge didn’t go unnoticed, especially by Bill Carolla, who is in charge of officials for both the MAC and the Big 10. “I got a call from Bill in February and he told me I was getting promoted,” DeBuse said. “It was a move I had been hoping for, so I was pretty excited.”

DeBuse will be working his first game Saturday when Indiana travels to take on Florida International. His crew will work 10 games this season, though they won’t know of their travel plans until Monday of each week.

That is the start of what is a very busy week for DeBuse and his crew.

“After your game on Saturday, you have until midnight Sunday to send in your information to your position coach, explaining each penalty you called and why you called it,” he said. “Then you are evaluated each game by a grader and you get those results back on Thursday. During the week, you will watch film of the teams you will be officiating that week.”

“Friday is our travel day and the officials will gather that night for a meal and pregame work. Then on game day, we get to the stadium three hours before the game.”

DeBuse spent two years on the Warrior football team before injuries forced him off the gridiron. But he views that experience as beneficial when it comes to working a game. “Playing the game has helped me as an official,” he said. “I was a defensive back when I played, and as an official I watch the receivers and defensive backs so I know those positions.”

Having officiated everything from youth sports to the highest level of college football, DeBuse understands emotions runs high from competitors, coaches, fans and parents. He also understands that as an official, your job is to not get caught up in the emotion of a game.

“Youth sports can be the hardest because sometimes the coaches and parents don’t have as great of an understanding of the game,” he said. “At the college level, it’s different because this is the career for these coaches. I love being an official, but it’s a hobby for me. If I get fired, I still have a job at Valmont. But for these coaches, if they get fired, their whole staff goes with them. That’s why as an official, the last thing you want to do is make a mistake. “We’re the third team out there on the field, but our job is to not get noticed.”

DeBuse realizes he has a job to do once he hits the field. But as a longtime fan of college football, he appreciates the pageantry that takes place every Saturday in the fall. “So far, I’ve been to every stadium in the Big 10 except Penn State, so you get to visit a lot of great places,” he said. “When you walk out onto that field and you see the players and the fans and hear the bands, it’s a huge rush. That’s what gets me excited.”

While making sure you get every call right is his biggest challenge on the field, DeBuse says balancing his time off the field is equal challenging. DeBuse is married to the former Lori Schroeder, also a 1994 Midland grad, and the couple have four children ranging in ages 9 to 17. “You’ve got to have a lifestyle balance, especially with four kids, because you’re gone every weekend,” he said.

Having climbed to the highest level of college football, DeBuse says the ultimate goal would be to work his way into the professional ranks. “I’d love to get to the NFL,” he said. “That would be the ultimate goal.”