Very difficult job and the pool of people who can do it is just not deep enough. If I'm not mistaking non of these guys are full time professionals at it right? Part time gig?
Not really true at all. I have a very close friend who is a college referee. It is highly competitive and the ones who make it to Division 1 have more than paid their dues. My buddy does high level high school games (national tournaments and state championships), junior college, women's games at schools like Grand Canyon and NAU and a very small smattering of Men's division 2 games.
He's been doing it for 20 or 25 years and is pretty certain that he's hit a ceiling. Someone has to take a liking to you and give you a break and then you have to have to become a good ole boy (see: Ed Rush) in order to climb further. IT is a tight knit fraternity and you are either in or out...most get weeded out.
Almost every D1 coach does it as their primary job during the season and most D1 coaches hold camps in the off season, and work other sports. Volleyball is a common thing for refs to work in the off season...so they keep their skills sharp. D1 refs make minimum of $1000 per game, but more experienced/respected ones can command more, sometimes a lot more. Good refs can make $100,000-$150,000 per year and thats basically in 5 months. Travel and expenses are covered too. Most of these guys are insurance agents or substitute teachers or something the rest of the year to keep busy, but at the D1 level, it is almost imperative that it be their #1 job priority. Guys like my buddy do not get that kind of money and so he has a full time job in addition to refereeing so its sort of catch 22 on the way up.
The conferences usually each have a small cadre of refs who only work that conference, they are generally older and closer to retirement and live in that area and are taking fewer games. Most refs, however, work in multiple conferences...so complaining about PAC12 officiating is a total joke... these guys work in the ACC and the Big 12 and Big 10 and WCC...they are all over the place. Although most limit their affiliations to just 3 or 4 conferences maximum. They can only work 1 game in a 24 hour period per NCAA rules so they are offered games by league commissioners and the better ones can pick and choose. Guys like my buddy get whats left over.
The horrifying thing is what they are taught to referee at those camps. They are literally told to keeps the calls close...and there is no intent whatsoever to call every foul. Only when one team gains competitive advantage....which makes the game flow better, but it is misnomer that they are there to call every foul. They have meetings before the games to discuss specific players and coaches - like the Ed Rush situation. The notion of impartiality is accurate in that the same stuff applies to both teams, but the fact that they will never call a foul with only a few seconds on the clock unless it is egregious and things like like horrify my sense of right and wrong.
At the D1 level and many lessor levels, every single minute is reviewed by other referees...every call is evaluated and commented on back two the ref who made it. These guys are graded for everything, every minute of every game. The better the evaluation the more likely they will get called for the NCAA tournament.
I like to save complaining about the refs for when it really matters. The Ed Rush situation was unbelievable. The 2001 championship game I am totally convinced was corrupt officiating. So was Lute, BTW.
But last nights game was just a bad flow....the calls were same as always...Seems like the refs had an off night just like our players.