MERIDIAN, Miss. If you have ever been to a televised college football game, you have likely seen someone standing on the sidelines dressed in all white wearing a striking red hat. Although their outfit is unique, they are rarely noticed, blending in with the uproar of players and coaches.
They are known as the TV timeout referee, or the "Red Hat".
Trey Long, a native of Meridian whose family owns Long Wholesale Distributors, is entering his 10th season serving as a college football Red Hat.
"I have a friend who is an SEC referee and it worked out through connections that I got a shot at being a timekeeper," Long said. "I had the opportunity to fill in back in 2009 and I've been doing it ever since."
If you attend any Ole Miss games this season, you will likely see Long on the sidelines sporting his red hat and all white getup. If you are watching a game from the comfort of your home, know that the TV timeout that comes at the worst possible moment was likely executed by Long.
"I'm probably the most hated guy on the field," Long said while addressing attendees at a Rotary Club of Meridian meeting. "My job is to go out and stop the game and for everyone to yell and boo at me."
As a TV timeout referee, Long wears a headset through which producers for ESPN talk to him throughout the game. The producers notify Long when to signal for TV timeouts in order to get in all the commercial breaks.
"You make sure you are communicating with the ESPN producers so you can hit commercial breaks and ensure that no plays aren't on TV," Long said. "You have to stand on the field, stop the game and make sure that everything is flowing time wise."
While fans have booed him numerous times, Long shared how he's also had coaches get upset with him for pausing game play. While such instances make the job difficult, Long also shared some of the perks that make the job worth it.
"Last year I was very fortunate and got to do the SEC Championship game," Long said. "I'm hoping to put my name in the hat for that again."
Long will serve as the Red Hat guy for all Ole Miss home games this year. If you find yourself at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this season, try not to 'boo' too much when a TV timeout is called.