Steve Shaw-Buc Official
By Wayne Wood
Steve Shaw played baseball, basketball & football at Berry High during the mid-1970’s graduating in 1977. Coach Bob Finley regarded Steve as one of the best defensive safeties he ever coached in football. Steve recalled, “Coach Finley is one of the few people in my life that I never wanted to disappoint. Not because of fear, or wanting something extra from him, but I always wanted to exceed his expectations & it’s hard to define why.”
“My early aspirations in life was to be a football coach as it was what I loved. Coach Finley knew of my aspirations & sat me down in his office during the summer between my junior & senior year at Berry. We talked about life as a coach but he gave me some advice that I’m grateful for even today.”
“He told me, ‘Shaw, you are a good student & don’t need a Physical Education degree to be a great coach. In fact, you need a good education to fall back on if your idea about coaching should ever change. In fact, even if I wanted to hire you, openings for PE teachers are very limited & this might keep you from getting the job you want.’ So I asked him what should I major in.”
“He replied, ‘Easy, you are a solid student, so major in Math or Science.’ When asked today why I would’ve ever pursued a BS degree in Mathematics, my quick answer is ‘Coach Finley told me to!’ This degree has allowed me to work in the business world with a ‘real’ job but also pursue my dream of officiating football.”
Steve began work as a football official at the little league & middle school levels before going onto the high school level. He once caught the attention of a college football official at a little league game simply to watch his grandson play. Yet that man was very impressed with Steve’s detailed attentiveness to his duties & mechanics of being a ref even if it was a little league game.
Coach Finley kept up with Steve rise through the high school officiating ranks & eventual working in the Gulf South Conference (College Division !!) & helped in his career again. “He & I were having lunch together in the summer of 1993 at the old Morrison’s on Highway 31. He asked again about my work as an official & congratulated me for getting to work the 6-A State Alabama Championship Game & asked what my next career desire might be.”
“I told him of my dream to officiate SEC Football games. We finished an enjoyable lunch. Later that summer, he wrote a letter to Bobby Gaston who was the supervisor of SEC officiating & I know it had a strong influence in getting an opportunity to work in that conference.”
Steve began working SEC games on a regular basis the next few years gaining valuable experience. Once he was working a pre-season scrimmage game at Tennessee in Knoxville in 1998 (the year the Vols won the national championship under Phil Fulmer). While listening to a seminar talk in the UT facility, Steve noticed the words written high in the ceiling area which was virtually the same words known as the Game Maxims which Coach Finley read to the team before every football game kickoff when Steve was a Berry Buc.
Steve brought that up with Bert Ackerman who was a top SEC official & had played several years earlier at UT about the same time Bob Finley played for the Vols. It was a very meaningful moment for both men.
Working his way up the ranks for SEC games, Steve eventually became the top official for games. It was common many years, to see him on TV giving the call after a penalty explaining the situation to thousands at the game & millions on TV. Of course, the call would usually make one side happy & the other side mad!
Over time, Steve worked 14 post-season assignments including 2 National Championship games, 8 BCS Bowls & 4 SEC Championship Games. This included the 2000 Sugar Bowl, 2005 & 2010 Orange Bowls, 2003, 2009, & 2011 Rose Bowls, the 2006 & 2008 Fiesta Bowls, 2001 Gator Bowl & 2003 Sun Bowl.
He was the President of the EC Football Officials Association from 2009-2011 and became the top adviser on game day for all SEC games. He was stationed at the central office when any debates & replay discussion came (which, of course, were quite often & at times controversial).
Steve became well known nationally & served as Chairman the Board of Directors for the National Association of Sports Officials. Of course, his main career professionally was at AT&T in Birmingham for more than 30 years where he worked his way up the corporate ladder as a highly regarded executive before he retired.
In September of 2017, Steve will start a 4-year term as the NCAA secretary-rules editor for football replacing long-time respected leader & official Rogers Redding.
Steve noted, “I have a strong passion for the NCAA football playing rules & I’m honored to lead our rules-making process into the very exciting future. This future will certainly contain many challenges but I believe that our game builds strong character & develops future leaders of America & therefore must be protected & enhanced. In addition, our game must evolve into a new world & the lens of player safety must be the key focus in all that we do.”
It is very gratifying to know that men like Steve Shaw hold these philosophies for our young athletic participants & satisfying to know that much of the basis for it was developed when he was a young Berry Buc.
Steve & his wife Jamelle along with his other family members were honored at Hoover High game as a Hall of Fame selection for the national Rivalries Game vs. Vestavia. He spoke to the players on the field well before the game. He is certainly proud to be a Buccaneer.