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Baynes begins 18th season as college official

By Michael Butler

Mark Baynes will be in Huntingdon, W.Va. to kick off the college football season on Saturday, Sept. 2. Marshall will host Albany for a late afternoon start.

Baynes is an official for the Sun Belt Conference. He began work as an umpire on college fields back in 2006.

"I got a late start," he said. "I got tired of Rusty, Allen and dad at Thanksgiving talk about what the checks were."

The Baynes family tree has included a lot of coaching, which Mark continues to do with the cross country and track programs at Tallassee, but also a good bit of sports officiating.

Ronnie, Rusty and Allen have all been inducted into the Alabama Sports Officials Hall of Fame. Allen was the most recent honoree with his recognition on Aug. 5. Allen and Rusty continue to work in the NFL like their father before them.

"I've had NFL friends grade Mark's games who have told me he is much better than Rusty and me," Allen said. "I can't argue with them."

Ronnie had a hand in getting Mark started.

"It's not always what you know but who you know, and we know the right people when it comes to officiating," Mark noted. "Dad was the coordinator of officials for Arena League 2 (AF2) at the time. He brought me in. Within a few years I was doing high school ball. Then I got the call to go to Conference USA and worked there for 13 years."

Since he has been with the Sun Belt.

"It's under the umbrella of the SEC. If the opportunity ever arose for the SEC, I'd do it. It is the SEC. It's the premier conference in the nation."

As for moving to the NFL in the future...

"That ship has sailed. I missed my window a few years ago. I got a late start. I'm probably over the age now. I don't think they bring in many 52 year olds.

Having been around sports all of his life has helped in the transition to officiating, but it goes beyond that.

"You have to watch a lot of tape. You can be athletic and run and know the rules, but what it comes down to is can you get it done on the field. You're scrutinized very heavily from your peers to your bosses to the graders of your games."

Baynes will be on the road every weekend for the next three months.

"It's part of the job. If you're not willing to do it, don't go do it. I was glued to the (Tallassee) Times broadcast for years and missed Brandon's and Casey's games a lot, but I didn't. Both are now pursuing the trade. They were brought into the Southern Conference to work on the supplemental list. They both have a game this year. They've been bit. They're balancing high school, D-III and now the Southern Conference."

The Baynes family at Allen's Hall of Fame induction earlier this month