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UK GRADUATE NAMED TOP NFL OFFICIAL

By Selena Stevens

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"I'm always going to be a true blue Kentucky fan."
-- Jim Daopoulos

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July 26, 2000 – (Lexington, Ky.) – Next time you cheer or jeer the officials of the National Football League, you'll have a Kentucky man to thank. Jim Daopoulos, a 1972 graduate and former director of intramurals for the University of Kentucky, became the NFL's top official July 1. As supervisor of officials, Daopoulos will oversee the hiring, training and assigning of football officials. He'll also be responsible for reviewing and assisting the league with game rules and policy.

"When I officiated the Super Bowl two years ago, I thought I'd reached the pinnacle as an official. That is the ultimate experience an official can have," Daopoulos said. "Being the supervisor of officials is one step higher." Daopoulos was approached by the league at the beginning of the year about becoming the official supervisor. He took nearly six months to accept the offer. The job would require a move to New York, but more importantly, would take him off the field after 11 years of NFL officiating.

"I was very happy and comfortable in my life," he said. "I thought I would be on the field for 10 years more. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to leave the field."

In addition, Daopoulos was a successful representative for North American Mortgage in Cincinnati. He and his wife Linda, a school teacher, had lived in Kentucky for more than 30 years and considered it home. He is originally from Boston; she from Louisville. But, after a trip to New York, she was ready to move.

"She just fell in love with New York," he said.

Daopoulos' career in officiating began during his years as an undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky. Transferring to UK from junior college where he played sports, Daopoulos began playing and officiating UK intramural sports.

"I'd just gotten married, and we needed the money," he said. "Initially, I officiated for intramurals to supplement our income."

The avocation led to a vocation. He earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1970 and his master's degree in recreation administration in 1972. From 1972 to 1977, he served as director of intramurals for UK, leaving to become an official with the Southeastern Conference. He officiated with the SEC for 10 years, and the Ohio Valley Conference for seven years. Then he was called up to the NFL.

"Early on, I'd set the goal of officiating in the NFL," he said. "But I never thought I would get there."

Over the years, Daopoulos has remained active with UK, as an instructor and as the namesake of a new award given annually by UK Intramurals – the Jim Daopoulos Outstanding Intramural Official Award. He said he will miss teaching at the university, but looks forward to teaching opportunities with new officials and new rules. Making the public aware of the official's job and the game rules also will be an interesting challenge, he said.

With just 19 days of the new job under his belt, Daopoulos said he's already glad he took the new job. For him, it's a dream he never dared to dream come true.

But Daopoulos said he will never forget his officiating beginnings in the heart of Wildcat country. Just after moving to New York, he discovered how far and wide UK fans are spread. While on an elevator on the way to work out, he met a young boy with his father. Noticing Daopoulos' UK shirt, the boy asked if he was from Kentucky and if he liked the UK Wildcats.

"Oh yes," he said. "I'm always going to be a true blue Kentucky fan."


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