NFL Hires Pac-12 Refs, Hilarity Ensues

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Brace yourself, NFL. The scourge of the Pac-12 is headed your way.

The National Football League officially announced the hiring of four new officials for the 2014 season, and four previously called games in the Pac-12: Patrick Turner, Ed Walker, John Jenkins and Shawn Hochuli.

These hires are noteworthy for NFL fans because among the college football community, Pac-12 refs do not have the best reputations. Below is the standard reaction on Twitter:

To those uninitiated with the Pac-12, Hochuli’s is the name that should jump out. He is the son of quasi-celebrity NFL referee Ed Hochuli, whose LaRon Landry-esque physique earned the nickname “Eddie Guns.”

Ed Hochuli’s nicknames are not quite as polite to folks in the San Diego area. Chargers fans still grumble over the Jay Cutler fumble he called an incomplete pass in September 2008.

Son Shawn Hochuli’s parallel is the 2012 Arizona-Oklahoma State game, in which the Cowboys were flagged 15 times for 167 yards. Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel examined Hochuli’s hiring through the lens of that game in Arizona Stadium:

I’ve got some news that should alarm all NFL fans and will boil the blood of every OSU fan.

Shawn Hochuli will join the ranks of NFL officials in the 2014 season.

Yes, the same Shawn Hochuli who presided over the worst officiating that I can remember, the 2012 OSU-Arizona football game.

Though officiating didn’t necessarily impact what was a three-touchdown difference between the Wildcats and Cowboys, the same can’t be said for a nonconference tilt a year later and 100 miles further north at Arizona State. With the Sun Devils leading visiting Wisconsin by two and the Badgers driving deep into Arizona State territory, one of the most bizarre, end-of-game sequences in recent memory unfolded.

Hochuli was not calling this game, nor were any of the four new NFL hires on the crew.

Moments like the Arizona State-Wisconsin finish sullied the reputation of Pac-12 refs. No one was more the object of scorn among fans and the target of jokes on social media more than recently retired Jay Stricherz.

Known affectionately as Glasses Ref, Stricherz is known for such moments as this:

Stricherz is enjoying his retirement, surely flagging attendants at his local TCBY for excessive use of sprinkles on his frozen yogurt, thus he isn’t among the Pac-12 refs making the NFL leap.

Really, the Arizona-Oklahoma State game is the only high-profile moment associated with any of the new NFL officials. But if fans of the pro game with limited college football exposure see “Pac-12 refs” and bristle, it might be because of the most recent connection between the two entities.

Surely everyone remembers the NFL referees’ lockout of 2012. The first few weeks of games with replacement refs gave lame, parody Twitter accounts a seemingly bottomless well of hacky material.

Three replacement officials were former Pac-12 refs, which the San Jose Mercury News noted in September 2012 were “let go for poor performance.”

Obviously the four new additions are coming into the NFL under much different circumstances. Nevertheless, there’s a pretty substantial scrutiny already held for Pac-12 refs, and it’s going to take awhile before it’s shed.