Amanda Sauer’s path to midfield at Ohio Stadium, wearing the white hat as referee of Ohio State’s spring football game, started in the stands at a high school north of New York City.
Ironically, she complained about a call.
It was late summer in 2011 as Sauer watched a game at a Westchester County high school alongside her husband, Peter. Amanda saw one of the high school players deliver an obvious block in the back, but no flags flew.
Rarely one to bite her tongue, Sauer asked aloud: How could they miss that?
“If you can see that from here,” a man sitting near her said, “you should come to our meetings.”
The man officiated youth games. Sauer had never officiated football or any sport, and other than the occasional blown call, she never even noticed the officials while watching games. Still, she kept thinking about the offer and thought officiating could be a great way to get involved with her favorite sport.
So that night, Sauer attended her first meeting and went through candidate school in the Westchester County Football Officials Association.
A week later, she worked her first youth game. By the end of the fall, she was working some junior-varsity high school games as an umpire.
Less than six years later, Sauer took the field at Ohio State. She announced three penalty calls to the sold-out crowd of 82,000, and her trial run wearing the referee’s white hat suggests bigger, and more historic, opportunities lie ahead.
They can’t get here soon enough for Sauer. That’s what happens when a dream doubles as a life vest.
The unintentional official
Sauer grew up on a farm in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburgh. They had cows, sheep and … pigskin. She remembers her dad drawing formations on his chest as they played football with her brothers and cousins. Sauer led the basketball, tennis and lacrosse teams in high school, but football occupied her fall Sundays.
Football also connected her to Peter, whom she met in Pittsburgh before both went off to their junior years of college. Peter played basketball at Stanford, captaining the school’s Final Four team in 1998, and later had pro stints in Greece and Italy. But like Amanda, he favored football. He once asked for tumbler glasses of every SEC team for Christmas and hoped to see football games at each stadium in the league.
After Sauer’s quick introduction to officiating, she didn’t take long to immerse herself in the rules, positioning, technique and culture of football officiating. “I was hooked right away,” she said….