The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first on-field official, Art McNally has died. He was 97.
On Monday, his son Tom McNally revealed that his father died in a hospital in Newtown, Pennsylvania, close to his longtime residence, of natural causes.
Art McNally, who spent more than 50 years serving as an on-field official, the NFL’s head of officiating, and an adviser to the league, passed away less than five months after being elected into the Hall of Fame. He is recognized for revolutionizing the practice of how games are refereed.
Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, said in a statement on Monday that Art McNally “was an outstanding guy, the pinnacle of integrity and class.” “He gained the enduring respect of the football community throughout his illustrious officiating career. He was the first official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, which is appropriate. More importantly, he was a Hall of Famer in every aspect.”
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While other officials had already been inducted into the Halls of Fame of baseball, basketball, and hockey, Art McNally was the first to get the accolade from the NFL back in August.
Art McNally, whose influence can still be seen in the way games are called today, was the only person who might have been more deserving of receiving the accolade.
Art McNally reorganized the department when he took over in 1968 after a nine-year career on the field. He continued to be involved until his retirement in 2015.
Hall of Fame president Jim Porter praised Art McNally as “a modest, sincere man of character.” “It was a proud occasion for the Hall to witness Art’s decades of service honored by his enshrinement as a member of the Class of 2022. Canton will eternally retain his memory as a powerful leader who contributed to introducing improved official training programs and the technological advancements required to stay up with a faster and more complex game.”
While serving in the Marines during World War II, Art McNally began officiating games casually. According to his son-in-law Brian O’Hara, he continued to call more than 3,000 baseball, basketball, and football games while documenting them in books he kept.
Frequently, McNally would officiate high school, collegiate, and professional games on the same weekend before he moved to the NFL league office in 1968.
This past summer, O’Hara remarked, “He was a natural at it.” “The most important thing was that he enjoyed making things fair, despite being a teacher and something of a rule follower all of his life because he adhered to the rules. He only wanted to be fair and get things right, that’s all. I suppose that’s what he liked most about officiating.”
The NFL’s evaluation and training procedures, which are mostly still in use today, were Art McNally’s most significant legacy.
To improve the sport’s uniformity, the NFL standardized how officials worked a game regarding their positioning and the calls they made.
In addition to grading the officials’ performance, he used the All-22 game tape to instruct and evaluate the officials. He used rules quizzes and weekly training DVDs to enhance the officiating around the league.
Dean Blandino, one of McNally’s predecessors as the NFL’s chief of officiating, remarked before McNally was inducted, “That was brand-new.”
“That was somewhat innovative. Nobody was engaging in it. In officiating, we still rely on the basis that Art laid when he entered the picture and saw how important this was. An evaluation system exists in every league and at every level of competition in every sport, and it all stems from Art.”
Art McNally, the first NFL game official enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died at age 97, the organization announced Monday.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) January 2, 2023
After the 1986 season, Art McNally received his first opportunity to work a Super Bowl as a replay official. He also assisted in implementing the NFL’s initial usage of instant replay in the 1980s.
When the replay was reinstated in 1999 after being eliminated in 1991, McNally advised his successors because he was adamant that the league should use any tool available to aid officials in making the right calls.
This summer, retired NFL referee Ed Hochuli stated, “You want to do it right. “The very definition of that was Art. If you look for “integrity” in the dictionary, an image of Art can be found.”
Sharon, his wife, their children Marybeth, Tom, Michael, and their grandchildren, survive Art McNally.