carlson vance
Vance Carlson
  • One of the most respected and well-known referees of his day
  • Officiated 15 major bowl games; including four national championships
Carlson, Vance
Inducted 2003

Born: November 14, 1925 - Falun, Kansas

Graduated: McPherson (KS) High School, 1943; McPherson College, 1950

Overview

If there was an important college football game to be played during the 1970s and 1980s, Vance Carlson was usually there, keeping order as an official.  Carlson’s career as a football official extended from 1947 to 1985 with a total of 39 years

Officiating Beginings

Carlson began his career as a football official in 1947 after being declared ineligible to play basketball at McPherson College because he was playing minor league baseball.  Carlson was a talented athlete in both football and basketball, but was good enough in baseball as a pitcher to sign a pro contract with the New York Yankees in 1946, following two years of service in the armed forces during World War II.  Carlson played minor league baseball for 10 years.

Career Highlights

Carlson began officiating Big Eight games in 1958, first as a lineman and field judge.  He spent the last 28 years of his career as one of the top officials in the Big Eight Conference and called a record 270 conference games, including the "Game of the Century" in 1971 between No. 1-ranked Nebraska and No. 2-ranked Oklahoma.  He officiated 15 major bowl games, seven playoff games and four national championship games.  He became a referee in 1965 and remained in that capacity for the next two decades.  He was on the field for national championship games in 1971 (Orange Bowl), 1978 (Cotton Bowl), and 1983 (Sugar Bowl). Carlson was also a basketball official for 14 years and coached McPherson’s Ban Johnson and American Legion baseball.  Carlson was inducted into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Kansas College Officials Hall of Fame in 1993.