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Hall of Fame official Arlo Robb continues to promote the profession

Mancos alum Arlo Robb earned induction into the Colorado Football Officials Association Hall of Fame in 2018 in recognition of his 47 years of service as a high school football official.Courtesy photo
Mancos alum evaluates next generation after five-decade career

Perched at the top row of the bleachers at Bluejay Field this past autumn, Mancos Class of 1962 alum Arlo Robb stoically watched as the Bluejays marched up and down the field during their run to the program’s first football state title.

While proud of his alma mater’s achievements, it’d be hard to draw Robb’s attention away from his primary focus – tracking the movements and decisions of the five-man officiating crew. With pen in hand, Robb annotates the arbitration decisions on his evaluation form, providing vital information for the ongoing growth of officials across the region.

After getting his start in officiating in the 1960s, Arlo Robb oversaw games over a five-decade span in both football and basketball – and continues to serve the profession as an official evaluator.Photo courtesy of Arlo Robb
To go along with 47 years as a football official, Arlo Robb spent 45 seasons working area basketball games, and continues to serve as an evaluator for local high school officials.Photo courtesy of Arlo Robb

Robb is all too familiar with receiving the feedback – he’s heard plenty – both constructive and inane – over his five-decade career donning stripes in both football and basketball. Now, having retired from officiating itself, Robb can still offer his two cents to help promote the game, as he works in the midst of his fifth year as a high school football and basketball official evaluator for CHSAA.

After heading to college following his multisport career at MHS, Robb enrolled in an officiating course at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho as part of the physical education curriculum.

“The guys who were in the ‘Sports Officiating’ class were also playing intramural sports, so we would take turns competing, while others would officiate, then vice versa,” reflected Robb, “so we could see both sides of the whole deal – and I got four hours of college credit!”

After returning to southwest Colorado, Robb stuck with it, with officials Ralph Haynie and Don Karraker, who had called many of Robb’s games from his playing days, encouraging him to take the high school officiating exam. Robb passed with flying colors, and earned an assignment to a varsity game in his first ever high school contest.

Now, 47 years later, Robb’s resume includes thousands of contests across Colorado and Utah, including over 40 postseason games, two all-state games and a state championship.

Among those countless afternoons and evenings under the Friday night lights, the state championship game – a 2013 1A title tilt between Paonia and Centauri – serves as a standout in his memory.

“Once you get to that level, the kids are well-coached, they know what their job is,” said Robb of the 32-24 thriller in which Paonia won their first title in over 50 years, “and I knew when I walked off that it was the best game I’d ever had in my life.”

As for witnessing his alma mater capture the 2023 state title – “it’s really cool,” said Robb, “those kids went to summer camp and the weight room – and that whole group was really strong.”

Throughout his career, Robb adjusted to numerous changes on both the gridiron and hardwood, including the innovation of the three-point line in basketball, as well as the introduction of 8-man football as a regular fixture on the Western Slope in the early 2000s.

“Eight-man is a faster game,” said Robb of the adjustment, “and as an umpire, you’re keeping track of who’s an eligible receiver because the ball can go anywhere.”

His travels took him to playing surfaces in the middle of hayfields, railroad boxcars used as makeshift press boxes, and scoreboard operators balanced on top of forklifts. Robb eschewed the idea of leaving rural Colorado to get opportunities at the collegiate level, opting to stay put – even when his assignments sent him all across the state. His work balance between employment for the Colorado Department of Transportation for 33 years allowed him evening availability to go call games across southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.

His journeys would often having him cross state lines on back-to-back days, including calling postseason games in Utah on one night, then turn around and officiating a Colorado state playoff game the next.

Still, he treated the contests the same with his focus and preparation – “I always graded myself on how I felt I performed each night on the court,” said Robb, “and each game was a new opportunity – I’d have to go to the gym and let the game come to me – because you’re always having to adjust to all the different things that can happen.”

Balancing the management of hostile environments and unpredictable games came down to some core elements for Robb. “Knowing the rule book is critical,” he said, “and being able to block out all the external noise.” With a laugh he added, “I will miss the times when someone yells out ‘Three seconds!’ when the ball is on the rim.”

Deservedly, Robb was inducted into the Colorado Football Officials Association Hall of Fame in 2018 – the first year of his eligibility for induction.

“I never did any of it for the money,” said Robb, remembering his first game checks totaling fifteen dollars, “but I always enjoyed seeing kids grow from seventh and eighth grade up through high school, and see how they improved, not only with their skill, but also their attitude and work ethic.”

Fully recognizing the underappreciated role that officials play in keeping youth athletics afloat, Robb is coaching the next generation of officials stepping in to fill his cleats, hoping that they bring the same level of passion for the game that he brought to the area for the past half-century.