Todd Bingham says he might try to work a game in South Dakota this fall, as well
Todd Bingham had to take the written test. He had to take two clinics related to player safety. He had to buy new uniform shirts and have alterations made on his pants. New equipment, too
Also, before he could work there, he had to join the Idaho association. Oh, and he had to pay local dues.
Add it all up, and Todd Bingham paid more than $500 in order to work a football game that would pay him $63.
Oh, and that does not include the cost for travel.
Bingham, a football official with the Evergreen Football Officials Association (EFOA), could not wait until Washington’s high school football season. He sought out work in a state that has high school football right now.
“It’s definitely my passion. Nothing like football for me,” Bingham said. “I hate to say a cliche and say Friday night lights, but there is something special about that whole feeling. I played in high school. I guess that’s as close as you can get to having that feeling again. It’s exciting walking on to that field.”
So that net loss financially was worth the net gain mentally for Bingham, who has been officiating in Southwest Washington since 2005.
With no high school football this fall in Washington, and knowing he had a business opportunity in Idaho and would be in that state in October and November, he reached out to an association in Idaho.
Pretty much all officials associations across the country are looking for more members. In fact, Idaho did not want to have to wait until Bingham was in state in October.
“I could really need somebody next week,” an official told Bingham a couple weeks ago.
“I guess I could make up a reason to go to Coeur d’Alene,” Bingham said. “I was there last Friday.”
Before he could work a game, though, he had to get certified in Idaho. Which meant taking those tests and going through the online clinics.
Oh, and since last football season, Bingham had lost more than 100 pounds. He had to get a quick fix on his pants.
The shirts in Idaho are different, as well. Unfortunately, the first Idaho shirt he bought was a long sleeve. It was going to be 90-plus degrees at his game. So he bought a short-sleeved shirt, too. In Idaho, officiating crews use radios and headsets. More costs for Bingham.
Still, it was all worth it when he got notification of a game.
In recent years, Bingham has been the assignor for the EFOA, meaning he assigned all the games for all the members throughout the season. Before he was the assignor, though, he said he was like a kid at Christmas when the notifications came and he found out which games he had that week.
That feeling returned, only from the Idaho association.
“I was jumping around here. ‘I got a game! I got a game!,’” Bingham said, adding that his wife Jill was laughing at him.
Bingham was the white hat, the referee, for a game at Wallace High School against nearby rival Mullan. Wallace is about 50 miles east of Coeur d’Alene.
“It had that feel. Gorgeous setting up in the trees,” Bingham said. “Here, at some of our fields, we have to work our way around goose droppings. There, it was elk and deer droppings. Grass field, green as it possibly could be. It was everything you could love on a Friday.”
There were changes, of course. Only one captain per team for the coin toss. No pre-game handshake with coaches.
He met his crew for the first time an hour before the game. The mechanics of officiating, as far as where everyone stands on the field, were a bit different in Idaho. They all adjusted to each other.
“After five minutes, you just settle in, and it’s football,” Bingham said. “It’s what you know, and it felt really comfortable.”
Bingham has been involved in local sports for years. He used to be an umpire for baseball. And for 14 years, he was an assistant coach with Columbia River boys basketball.
For now, the focus is continuing his football officiating career.
Later this season, he plans on being in South Dakota, He has considered making contact to inquire if he could work a game there. It might cost him more money again. Oh well.
“Football is its own beast. It’s in here,” he said, pointing to his heart. “You feel like you’re doing something good. There’s a saying, ‘Without us, it’s recess.’ More than that, it’s the relationships with officials and coaches.”
Bingham also hopes to work more games in Southwest Washington this school year. The tentative WIAA sports schedule has football in February and March. He is grateful he has had the chance to work at least one football game this fall but he also is hoping athletes in Southwest Washington get some sort of a season.
“I feel horrible for them,” Bingham said. “I hurt for those kids.”
Football is not “just a sport,” Bingham said, not for the players and coaches who are committed to the game.
It turns out, officials are just as passionate about the game.