Longtime football lovers, Murrays embrace new gridiron roles
Football fields have been like homes away from home for the father-and-son tandem of Scott and Max Murray for as long as they can remember.
Scott played in high school and coached several years at the junior-league and prep level, including a successful tenure as head coach at Garden City High School that ended in 2016, and several top assistant jobs at Plymouth and Birmingham Groves high schools.
Max played youth football for his dad before moving onto the high school ranks at Livonia Stevenson.
Throughout their football journeys, the duo have enjoyed a wide spectrum of experiences, but nothing close to what they shared earlier this month in Woodhaven: wearing black-and-white-striped shirts onto the field.
One season after hanging up his coaching whistle for good in 2020, Scott Murray followed the suggestion of longtime friend and football official Gary Gaspas and joined the ranks of the rules-enforcing whistle-blowers, joining Gaspas’s crew of officials in 2021.
When Gaspas’s crew became short-handed earlier this season due to a season-ending, work-related injury to one of his team members, Max Murray stepped up to fill the void.
Working together has been black-and-white-striped bliss for the Murrays.
“I had always wanted to coach someday with my boys, but that wasn’t possible after I decided to end my coaching career following the 2020 season,” Scott Murray said. “Being able to work as an official on the same crew as Max is probably the next best thing.”
Just days after completing his MHSAA training and passing a mandated test, Max Murray was thrown into the heat of the battle, working as the umpire (Scott is the crew’s head linesman) for the Sept. 23 Allen Park-at-Woodhaven varsity match-up.
“I worked four little league games prior to the varsity game, which helped,” Max said. “Obviously, the high school games are a lot more intense, a lot faster, but it was fun. It was reminiscent of my playing days because I was the umpire, so I lined up in about the same position I did when I played linebacker in high school.”
Max, who graduated from Stevenson in 2017, said the process to become a certified official unfolded pretty quickly.
“A few weeks ago, my dad told me their crew was short-handed and asked me if I wanted to give it a shot,” he said. “It sounded interesting, so I looked into it. I went through some training, took the test and the next thing I knew I was on the field officiating.”
The MHSAA — like most state-wide high school athletic associations throughout the country — is facing painful official shortages, making commitments like the Murrays’ gold-plated.
“I’ve been an official for over a year now, but obviously I’m still learning,” said Scott. “You don’t know what you don’t know, right? But it’s been a great experience. I can honestly say I haven’t had one negative experience in all the games I’ve worked so far.”
Scott Murray even admitted he wished he had officiated before becoming a coach.
“If I had, I probably would have coached a little differently,” he said. “I’ve learned that there are calls officials are always going to make — especially ones involving player safety — and ones that they’re going to let go in a lot of cases. That would have been good to know as a coach.”
Like all good officials, the Murrays’ work doesn’t begin and end when the Friday night lights are turned on and off. They are diligent about watching video to learn more about the trade and relentlessly reading up on the rules.
“One routine we have is getting film on both of the teams who’ll be playing in the game we’re working the following Friday,” Scott said. “We’re looking for tendencies and how clean the games were played. That way, we’re better prepared once we step on the field on Friday nights.
“And when we were driving to the Allen Park-Woodhaven game, Max was actually reading through his rule book. It’s reassuring knowing you’re working with people who take it as seriously as you do.”
If you are interested in learning about becoming a certified MHSAA official, check out the association’s website.
Given their positive whistle-blowing experience so far, Scott and Max Murray would highly recommend you do.
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