ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–No one from Rockford, perhaps ever, has been a part of more Big Ten football games than Jeff Carr has been a part of. Carr has spent the past 20 seasons as a Big Ten official. Now he’s retiring.

Carr has been officiating football games since he graduated from Illinois State in 1978. He started working junior tackle games and then worked his way up the ladder eventually working Mid-American Conference games. Then, 20 years ago he became a Big Ten official.

Carr is an umpire. He lines up on the defensive side of the ball just behind the linebackers. That was a natural spot for him since Carr was a middle linebacker on Rockford East’s undefeated football team in 1973, and he was an outside linebacker at Illinois State. Becoming an official was a way for Carr remain connected to the game.

“When you step away from it it’s like, well what can I do to stay involved?” said Carr. “Fortunately, when I came back (to Rockford), and I got out of college I ran into some people that officiated my games and got talking, and kind of mentioned that, and they said, ‘Why don’t you get into officiating?’ So that’s how it started.”

Carr has experienced every Big Ten environment from field level.

“The Big Ten is a very powerful conference when it comes to the stadiums, and the size of the stadiums. They’re bigger than a lot of the NFL stadiums. All of them are unique because of the tradition.”

Carr has also worked Notre Dame games. The biggest game he’s worked was the 2006 Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship. Vince Young led #2 Texas to a thrilling 41-38 win over #1 USC which was led by Matt Leinert and Reggie Bush.

“That’s a very memorable game. A lot of good players. Just well-played.”

Another game that stands out for Carr was his first game this season, Nebraska at Illinois, but not for a good reason. In that game he got knocked down and injured.

“I got caught in a crossing pattern between two players. I dislocated my elbow.” 

Carr missed the next three games. Still the good part of officiating far has outweighed the bad.

“What I enjoy about it is it keeps you close to the game, and it gives you the challenge that you used to have as a player,” said Carr. There’s a lot of preparation. The game now at the college level and being part of the Big Ten staff is, I would say easily a ten-month job.”

Carr says this is the right time for him to walk away from officiating in the Big Ten now that he has 20 years in, but it’s not easy.

“It’s going to be very difficult. You get a lot of good relationships with all the people you cross paths with. That’s the toughest thing (about retiring) is missing the people that you’ve been around.”

Carr has one last major college football game to officiate. That’s the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 30th. North Carolina will play South Carolina in that game.