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Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Mike Pereira is helping to bring scholarships to both veterans and active service members to become sports officials in their communities, with Edward Sylvan

“I created the ‘Battlefields2Ballfields’ foundation to bring scholarships to both veterans and active service members to become sports officials in their communities, at all levels and in all sports, not just football. Although my success now is currently in broadcasting, my passion is officiating. With an ongoing shortage of officials around the country, and the […]


“I created the ‘Battlefields2Ballfields’ foundation to bring scholarships to both veterans and active service members to become sports officials in their communities, at all levels and in all sports, not just football. Although my success now is currently in broadcasting, my passion is officiating. With an ongoing shortage of officials around the country, and the trials and tribulations of service members returning to their communities, our organization aims to bring purpose to the lives of the service members while also keeping our youth active in sports.”


As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Pereira, former Vice President of NFL Officiating, joined FOX Sports in 2010 in the unique position of a multi-platform NFL and college football rules analyst. Pereira contributes regularly to the FOX NFL SUNDAY pregame show, FOXSports.com and FOX Sports Radio. He also joins FOX NFL and FOX College Football game broadcasts. Pereira retired from the NFL in 2009 after 14 years with the league. In his role with FOX Sports, Pereira is on-hand during NFL and college football game broadcasts to provide viewers with his exceptional insight into any plays, calls or circumstances that warrant a rules interpretation or explanation. In this capacity, Pereira draws on his history with the NFL to share with viewers the process of making and reviewing officials’ calls on the field. He monitors NFL and college football games every weekend from his control room at the FOX Network Center in Los Angeles, which provides him visual access to all games played simultaneously. Pereira is available to interact with on-air studio personalities during pregame, halftime or postgame segments and communicate with game crews at stadiums across the country, either on- or off-camera. Pereira is a regular guest on FOX Sports Radio’s national lineup and contributes videos for FOXSports.com. Pereira has been involved in football since 1982 when he was an NCAA Division I official. He spent 14 years officiating college football, beginning with nine years in the Big West Conference (1982–91), followed by five years in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) (1992–96). During that time, he officiated eight postseason Bowl Games, including the Aloha Bowl and Cotton Bowl (twice each), Citrus Bowl, Gator Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Freedom Bowl. Pereira made the jump to the NFL as a sideline judge in 1996 while also holding the title of supervisor of officials for the WAC. After two years patrolling the NFL sidelines and overseeing WAC officiating, Pereira was promoted to NFL Supervisor of Officiating in 1998. In 2001, he became Director of Officiating for the NFL and then was promoted to Vice President of NFL Officiating in 2004. He spent a total of 14 years with the NFL. Born and raised in Stockton, Calif., he graduated from Santa Clara University in 1972 with a B.A. in finance. Pereira currently lives in Sacramento with his wife Gail.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

“As head of officiating for the NFL, part of my duties was to give a yearly presentation to the TV networks, including FOX, at their seminars prior to each season. In addition, I would make myself available to them during the games throughout the season. But the in-person presentation where I would get grilled by all the on-air talent, as far as the NFL rules, changes we were making to the rules leading into that season, was really what led to me becoming television’s first ‘rules analyst’ for NFL games on FOX. At the end of the 2008 season, FOX’s NFL insider, Jay Glazer, broke the news that 2009 would be my last year as head of officiating for the NFL — I was retiring. About 20 minutes after Jay reported it, I got a call from David Hill, Chairman of FOX Sports at the time. He said, ‘You’re not retiring, we’re going to create a role for you.’ At first, the league had reservations about me going on television. . . .was I going to be negative or critical of the officials?”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

“Right out of the gate, Week One of the 2010 NFL season, Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears, with the score 19–14 in favor of the Bears. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson made a controversial play in the final minute of the game. The ruling on the field was that Johnson caught the ball and scored a touchdown, which would’ve given the Lions the win.

“However, after replay, it was decided that, by rule, Johnson did not complete the catch and score the touchdown. As the play was being ruled by officials, I was brought in to comment live on television. Now, I wasn’t 100% confident that I knew what the officials were going to do. They ruled incomplete, but I was so non-committal in what I initially said that our game analyst, Brian Billick, asked directly, ‘Well, what are they going to do?’ I almost crapped my pants because I thought if I was wrong, I would’ve gotten fired. When it was ruled an incomplete pass, I almost fainted. The funny thing is, me going on television and explaining the catch rule immediately took criticism off the officials on the field and put the criticism on the rule.”

What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your success?

“If you’re going to make the choice to be the broadcaster in any sport you’re working, you need to know the rules and learn about all aspects of the game. No matter how complex the rule book, fans expect you to know the rules. You can’t really learn about offense or defense and special teams. You have to learn the rules and how the rules are administered.”

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

“Karl Benson. Karl was the commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference in 1996 and he convinced me to take over the supervising duties of the WAC football officiating program. That came at the same time as I got into the NFL as an official. So for two years, I handled all the administrative duties of the officiating program at the WAC, which included dealing with the media, coaches, training, hiring and firing officials. Karl’s decision to have me do that led directly to the NFL bringing me in to perform the same duty.”

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

“I created the ‘Battlefields2Ballfields’ foundation to bring scholarships to both veterans and active service members to become sports officials in their communities, at all levels and in all sports, not just football. Although my success now is currently in broadcasting, my passion is officiating. With an ongoing shortage of officials around the country, and the trials and tribulations of service members returning to their communities, our organization aims to bring purpose to the lives of the service members while also keeping our youth active in sports.”

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

“We share our cause in several different ways. Our website, battlefields2ballfields.org, is probably the biggest way we create awareness, but it’s also through social media and using my following on Twitter to help spread the word. I travel the country giving speeches and work with satellite ‘B2Bs’ around the country. The satellite offices reach out to local service organizations, specifically those that deal with veterans, veterans affairs offices nationwide. Additionally, B2B works with local officiating organizations to teach them how to recruit veterans in their area.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

“During a board meeting of the National Association of Sports Officials [NASO], we recognized the shortage of officials around the country. The effects of a shortage of officials means games weren’t properly supervised. Football games couldn’t all be played on Friday nights because there weren’t enough officials. So, I realized that, and after a chance meeting with some veterans who’d returned from service, people struggling to get themselves incorporated back into civilian life, that’s when I had the ‘Aha!’ moment. It was on a drive to Oregon. Putting the two ideas together, I thought veterans would make great officials and would act as role models for kids and feel a sense of purpose while giving back to their communities.”

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

“After I had the idea, I was at a NASCAR race, coming out of the production truck when I ran into Howie Long’s kid, Chris, who is a great philanthropist. I mentioned my idea to Chris and he loved it and immediately directed me to give Nate Boyer a call.

“For those who don’t know, Nate was a college football walk-on at the University of Texas and was signed by the Seattle Seahawks for a brief period. More importantly, Nate is a United States Army Green Beret and served six years and multiple tours with the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Chris put me in contact with Nate and Nate was really one of the guys who impacted my decision to go 100% into this cause. Nate has been on the B2B board since we started. So, really, those two dudes.”

What are your 3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Be prepared to work harder than I expected to work.

2. It’ll take more money than you think it will take.

3. Be prepared to get emotionally involved with the people that you help. Your emotions can be both happy and sad.

“Hector was a guy that had a severe case of PTSD and a buddy of his out of the clear blue sky was trying to get Hector out of the house. His buddy Henry went to Hector’s house and said ‘You played football and basketball, let’s try officiating. Initially, of course, Hector didn’t want to, but after some convincing and the realization that B2B would pay all expenses, Hector and Henry came out to one of our clinics in Los Angeles to learn about officiating. Hector was nervous, and all he said to me was ‘I don’t want to fail.’ I remember saying to him it’s not about success or failure. It’s about learning the basics. Well, he went out on that field and initially didn’t move with the play, which we corrected. On the second play, he moved with the play but didn’t signal at the end of the play. On the third, he moved with the play, signaled at the end of the play but didn’t spot the ball properly. On the fourth, he moved with the play, signaled, spotted the ball but made another infraction. On the fifth, the quarterback drops back and throws a 40-yard bomb, so there goes Hector racing down the field — he [correctly] called pass interference! I congratulated him and told him he made the right call. His face lit up, smiling from ear to ear. He was my bromance. He was unbelievable. Since then, his son was declared ineligible to play. He asked for my help and together we were able to get him reinstated. Then his young daughter was diagnosed with diabetes and it’s been a challenging time for him ever since, but he’s coming back. In some cases, you get involved emotionally in their lives and you end up trying to do more than you can actually do.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“If I kept it in this genre, the one thing I’m going to try and do is to develop a program that enforces parents to officiate. Not necessarily to officiate their own child’s game, but to officiate on the level that their son or daughter is participating in so that these parents who scream at officials can understand how difficult it is to officiate. And maybe these parents would develop a respect for the authority of an official. I’d also love to expand the foundation to let veterans know what is out there. It seems that vets are not aware of what’s out there. I want to provide vets with opportunities to do other things in life and to develop a sense of purpose when they return from service.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

As a cancer survivor, Jimmy V [former player, coach and television broadcaster Jim Valvano] said it best, and I’m reminded of it. “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. And that’s not just about cancer, that’s about any struggle.”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

“Political affiliations aside, I’d like to reach out to former President George Bush — the artist. CNN said it best that Bush discovered his ‘Inner Rembrandt’ in his homage to veterans. George Bush has been a guy who has been active in some military and veterans groups, and as we all know, he’s a big sports fan.”

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