The officials selected for the Gophers-Michigan game Saturday made history as the first all-Black officiating crew for a Power Five football game, according to the Big Ten.
The crew consisted of 11 men and one woman with Larry Smith (referee), Edward Feaster (umpire), William McKoy (head line judge), Dorsey Skinner (line judge), Robert Smith Jr. (back judge), Lamont Simpson (field judge), Lashell Nelson (side judge), Gregory Nelson (center judge), Calvin Diggs (alternate), James Robinson (replay official), Terry Young (communicator) and Darrel Leftwich (timer).
They posed for a picture at TCF Bank Stadium’s midfield with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.
“The principles of equality and equity are very important to me personally and to the Big Ten Conference,” Warren said in a statement. “Big Ten football has been around since 1896, but tonight marks the first time that an all-African American football officiating crew has led a game. It is a special opening weekend for Big Ten football and we are honored by all 14 of our member institutions and their student-led social justice initiatives, as well as our conference-wide ‘United As One’ campaign.”
Robert Smith Jr. is a former Iowa receiver who played for Hayden Fry from 1983 to ’86. Smith was an official in two BCS national playoff games.
Feaster also worked during the 2017 and 2018 national championship games. Nelson was one of the first women to officiate a Canadian Football League game. Skinner does games with the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL.
Warren launched the “United As One” social justice campaign on Oct. 23, which included all 14 Big Ten football teams sharing different messages with patches and helmet decals to raise awareness for better racial equality and inclusion.
The Big Ten’s officiating staff for the 2020 football season is composed of 22% ethnic minorities, including women, according to the league.