Tony Marcella has been officiating football games for three decades and has spent the last 13 years as a Division I-Football Championship Subdivision referee. But on Saturday, Marcella will get to make a little bit of college football officiating history.
The Dalton native will be the referee for the NCAA Division I-FCS championship game in Frisco, Texas, between North Dakota State and Jacksonville State.
"I was extremely surprised" to get the second call, Marcella said by phone from the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where he was waiting to deplane.
"We had a shot at it because Richmond was a semifinalist," he said.
Richmond is in the Colonial Athletic Association, where Marcella and his crew work. North Dakota State beat Richmond 33-7 in a national semifinal back on Dec. 18. Had the Spiders won the game instead of the Bison, Marcella and his crew would not be eligible as a neutral officiating crew is required.
"To get it two times in four years, it's unheard of," he said. "I'm fortunate to get two times. My supervisor [Jim Maconaghy] has faith in me."
Marcella said he got the call the Sunday before Christmas.
Marcella and his crew were in Charleston, S.C. back on Dec. 5 when they worked the second-round tournament game between Charleston Southern and The Citidel. Charleston Southern beat The Citadel 14-6, and then lost to Jacksonville State in the national quarterfinal round.
The championship game will kick off at noon, and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Marcella said that Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas of Major League Soccer, will be sold out and he will officiate in front of 20,000 spectators.
"The CAA is very well respected in national circles of officiating," said Marcella.
Marcella wore the white hat in the Dallas suburb back in 2011 when North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State 17-6.
"I'm more confident this time," said Marcella. "I'm the only repeat guy from the last time."
Marcella said he'll be joined by his regular lline judge, field judge and side judge. The other two officials in his CAA crew are rookies and will be replaced by more veteran CAA guys.