Former Big Ten referee John Olson dies

Nov. 26, 2012 at 2:34 PM

GOSHEN, Ind., Nov. 26 (UPI) -- John D. Olson Jr., a former Big Ten college football referee who called four bowl games in the 1970s, died of a heart attack, family said. He was 94.

Olson worked the nation's premier college football conference at the time as a line judge, meaning he was the nearest victim when legendary coaches like Michigan's Bo Schembechler or Ohio State's Woody Hayes didn't like a call.


"He always had great stories about legendary [coaches] and any of the other wild men back then who would just berate him on the sidelines," said Olson's son, Jeff, told the Chicago Tribune Monday. His father died Nov. 12.

Olson refereed the 1967 Rose Bowl, between Purdue University with stud quarterback Bob Griese and the University of Southern California. He also called the 1971 Cotton Bowl, where Notre Dame upset the undefeated and top-ranked University of Texas in addition to the 1972 Rose Bowl and the 1975 Cotton Bowl.

Olson lived in Goshen, Ind., where he was predeceased by his wife of 68 years, Joy. He is survived by two children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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