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John's Journal: Officials Return To The Game They Love

After Six Years Away, A Football Official Is Happy To Be Back

Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - 7:48 PM

High school officials, the men and women who wear the stripes, blow the whistles and keep fair, safe play foremost in their minds and actions, come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some become officials at a young age, some a little later. They are committed to the sports and activities they love and they want to ensure that current student-athletes have the best possible experience.

Those are among the reasons that Dan Barnett returned to officiating football this year. He was away from the game for six years because he was away from the state.

Barnett, 40, who lives in Mankato, had been a football coach before he joined the officiating ranks in his mid-20s.

“I love football and I love being around it,” he said. “Maybe this is a little less frustrating and I don’t have a crazy amount of time invested in it.”

When he took a job in Colorado, he moved west and didn’t get involved in officiating because he had no connections to any officials there. He came back to Minnesota earlier this year and it didn’t take long to resume his officiating career, thanks to some friends in the game.

He talked to Scott Haefner, a football official, executive board member of the Mankato Area Officials Association and frequent mentor to young officials. He talked with Jed Falgren, a longtime football and basketball official who is president of the Mankato association.

“I ran into Jed at his daughter’s wedding and somehow it got brought up,” Barnett said with a laugh. “He said, ‘We need a sub.’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”

During a game in St. Clair on Oct. 7, Falgren observed from the sideline and Barnett was the umpire. 

“I think for the first couple of plays, I definitely had to shake the rust off,” Barnett said. “I felt like after the first quarter, ‘I’m back, I got it, I’m good.’ ”

Falgren said he was more than happy to help Dan return to the game, especially with all sports facing a shortage of officials.

“I hope I had a little bit to do with it,” Jed said. “He talked about coming back. Scott mentioned Dan was thinking about it and we needed to work on him.

“I am excited. He’s going to be a great addition. He has a football mind, he was a player, a student of the game. I was real pleased at how natural he looked at his first game down in St. Clair.”

Earlier in the season, Barnett observed the officials from the sideline during a game in New Ulm. Falgren, who was a crew member stationed on one of the sidelines, and Barnett had discussions throughout the game.

“He was asking tons of great questions all through the game. We could tell he was pretty good,” Falgren said.

Falgren also took a break in his officiating career. He began working games when he was a University of Minnesota student in the mid-1980s. In the early 1990s a growing family gave him a reason to step away from officiating. He returned in 2015.

Like all officials, Barnett and Falgren would love to see more people join their ranks.

“I’ve talked to a couple buddies, trying to gauge their interest,” Dan said. “I have two younger brothers who live in Minnesota and I’ve talked to both of them.”

--If you are interested in becoming an MSHSL sports official or fine arts judge, go to this link for more information:

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]  

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