It’s official: Cannon works Division-III title game
Cambridge native, Salisbur y resident referees first national championship
For Cambridge native Bob Cannon, sports has long been a huge part of life.
A three-sport athlete at Cambridge High, Cannon graduated in 1976, part of the last class before the school merged with two others to become CambridgeSouth Dorchester. Cannon ran cross country, track, and was a wide receiver and defensive back on the football team coached by Gorton McWilliams.
Cannon is still seen on the gridiron, as a referee with the Bayside Football Officials Association, where the 1980 graduate of Salisbur y State College (now Salisbury University) has carried a whistle since 1998. He began refereeing college games a few years later.
On ESPNU, Cannon was a referee, and chief of the officiating crew working the Stagg Bowl XLIV in Salem, Va, on Friday, Dec. 16. The annual Division-III national championship, named after legendary coach and pioneer Amos Alonzo Stagg, pitted 14-0 Mar y Hardin-Baylor University, from Belton, Texas, against Wisconsin-Oshkosh University (131). Mary Hardin-Baylor defeated Wisconsin-Oshkosh 10-7 in the game.
Cannon officiated last Saturday’s Mar yland Class 2A state championship in Annapolis, where Walkersville earned a 33-6 victory over Elkton.
He and his college officiating crew were selected after their performance in a recent playoff between Alfred (N.Y.) and Western New England.
“When I do college, it’s as a part of the ECFOA [East Coast Football Officials Association],” Cannon said. “At the end of the season, our assigner submits two crews for playoffs, and we were one of the ones submitted, for D-2 and D-3 football.
“We did the Alfred-Western New England game, and after that, they rate you in the playoffs,” Cannon continued. “NCAA gives you a rating and that’s how they pick the crew for the final. I got an email Sunday night telling me our crew had been picked. I’m leaving Thursday morning around 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning to meet with the crew and ride over.”
The other members of Cannon’s crew, he said, come mostly from New Jersey and parts north. He plans to meet them somewhere outside Washington, D.C., and finish the six-hour ride to Salem with them. t
“We’ve got an 8:15 [a.m.] meeting [Friday] with NCAA, to go over some things,” Cannon said. “We’ve got to go over things like instant replay . ... I’m a little nervous about that, since I’ve personally never done instant replay before.”
Cannon admitted he was “a little shocked” that he was chosen as the white hat. “I was thinking at my age — I’m 58 now — I thought they want younger guys,” he said with a laugh. “Myself and another guy, though, we’re in better shape than some of these 30-year-olds.”
Friday’s game was Cannon’s first national championship. “I did a semifinal in 2013,” he said. “I was a side judge at a game at Mount Union (Ohio).”
Mount Union, a D-III powerhouse, lost on Saturday, 14-12, to Mary Hardin-Baylor in a semifinal in Texas. MHB’s win not only broke an 11-year streak of championship appearances by Mount Union, it also put the Crusaders in the final for the first time since 2004, the year before the streak by Mount Union, which has the same mascot, the Raiders, as Cannon’s high school team, and NFL favorite, the Oakland Raiders — began.
College officiating, Cannon said, is “a lot more time consuming than high school.
“As referee, I’m always busy,” he said. “You have to call the coaches; I set up a test for the crew — they have to take a test every week — and there’s always something going on. It’s time-consuming.”
When he’s not working as a senior supply planner for Perdue Farms, where he’s been since 1988, he’s working with his daughter, Maggie, on her softball skills.
“I’m heading home to work with my daughter on her pitching,” Cannon said. “We’ll go in the garage this time of year, and throw into the net . ... I have to keep her straight for another two years. She committed to NC [University of North Carolina] Charlotte.”
A junior at Parkside High, Maggie was named South Bayside Player of the Year for 2016 in softball.
Though more than instant replay separates college from high school— “there’s a lot more pressure, because, for coaches, that’s their livelihood, and... the players are faster, bigger, more disciplined, plus there are a lot of rules that are different, which people don’t realize,” Cannon said.
“I still love doing high school ball. Sometimes it’s more fun doing the high school ball with the kids,” Cannon said. “For college this year, this is my 14th game of the season. I’ve been going since the last week of August. Week 1 was [around] the end of August . ... I’ve spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania and New Jersey this year.”
A track and field athlete at Salisbury, where he graduated in 1980, Cannon was inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame in 2006. He and several teammates still hold the record of 3 minutes, 30.1 seconds in the sprint medley relay. Cannon and his wife, Monica, have been married for 10 years and live in Salisbury.