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Walt Coleman is an American football official in the National Football League (NFL) since the 1989 NFL season. He wears uniform number 65.


Coleman resides in Little Rock, Arkansasmarker and is a fifth-generation family operator of Coleman Dairy.

Outside of officiating, Coleman serves on many local boards and associations including the Little Rock Boys and Girls Club and Greater Little Rock YMCA. Coleman is a former president of the Arkansas Dairy Products Association and Major Sports Association of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Coleman was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame on February 23, 2009, joining his father, Buddy Coleman, a 1994 inductee.

Officiating career

Coleman worked for the Arkansas Activities Association, the governing body for high school athletics in Arkansas, for 14 years before moving up to the college level. His college officiating career included five years in the Southland Conference (Division I-AA) and five years in the Southwest Conference (Division I). He was never promoted to referee during his college officiating career since he could not justify heading a crew with his five years experience in each conference.

Coleman served as a line judge for the first six seasons before being promoted to referee at the start of the 1995 NFL season. Coleman was promoted when Dale Hamer was forced to sit out the 1995 NFL season after undergoing open-heart surgery.

Over his NFL career, he has worked two conference championship games (1998 and 2003), but is most notable for being the referee in the game that became known as the "The Tuck Rule Game".

Coleman's 2009 NFL officiating crew consists of umpire Jeff Rice, head linesman Julian Mapp, line judge Jeff Bergman, field judge Scott Steenson, side judge Rick Patterson and back judge Bob Lawing.

Instant replay controversies

Coleman has been at the center of controversial instant replay calls during his career. Here are examples of a few of them:

The Tuck Rule Game

Coleman is most notable for the controversial instant replay call he made on January 19, 2002 during what has been deemed by many as the "Snow Bowl" because of the enormous amounts of snow that had fallen during and prior to a playoff game at Foxboro Stadiummarker between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. With 1:47 left in regulation, Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson, knocked the ball from New England's quarterback Tom Brady causing a fumble that was recovered by Oakland linebacker Greg Biekert. However, Coleman reviewed the play and overturned the fumble call, giving the Patriots the opportunity to win the game. The rule applied in the decision was the tuck rule, stating that "any intentional forward movement of [the thrower's] arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body."

Adding to the confusion during the game was that Coleman did not explain that he applied the tuck rule when he announced the replay reversal. All he said was, "The quarterback's arm ... was coming forward" before he was drowned out by the thunderous roar of the crowd. Coleman later said of the play, "It was in the last two minutes of the game, and the (instant) replay guy, buzzed me and said the play needed to be reviewed. After I went over to the monitor and looked at the play, it was obvious to me that it was a forward pass. So I changed the ruling from a fumble to an incomplete pass and, as the saying goes, 'the rest is history'."

As a result of the controversy over both the replay reversal and the first major publicized application of the Tuck rule, the contest also became known as the "Tuck rule game". And as of 2009, Coleman has never worked a game involving the Raiders since then.

2008 Steelers v. Ravens game

Coleman was involved in another controversial replay call near the end of regulation during a late regular season game on December 14, 2008 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadiummarker, a game in which the Steelers needed a win the clinch the NFC North title. With the Ravens leading 9–6 with less than 50 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter, Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes caught a 3-yard pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and was ruled down just shy of the goal line. But after reviewing the play, Coleman overturned the call, saying that Holmes caught the pass with his feet in the end zone, and therefore scored what ultimately was the game-winning touchdown. After the game, Coleman said to a pool reporter that the replay did in fact show that the ball barely broke the plane of the goal line – a fact he never mentioned on the field during the game. Nevertheless, the replay reversal was criticized by the sports media, not only for the initial explanation, but also because they felt that there was never any conclusive evidence to support the replay reversal. However, Mike Pereira, the NFL's Supervisor of Officials, would later discuss the play on his weekly "Official Review" segment on NFL Network's NFL Total Access and show that there was indeed indisputable visual evidence that the ball did break the plane of the goal line when Holmes had control of the ball with both of his feet down.

2009 Cowboys v. Eagles game

Mike Pereira himself would also later question a replay review by Coleman during a critical November 2009 mid-season contest between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East. With the game tied at 13 with 11:42 left in regulation, Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb attempted a quarterback sneak on fourth down and inches to go near the Dallas 45-yard line, but was ruled just shy of the first down marker. Philadelphia challenged the spot, but Coleman upheld the call after reviewing the play. The Cowboys would then go on to win the game, 20-16, and take a one-game lead in the NFC East. Later in the week, Pereira, on his weekly Official Review segment, criticized Coleman for not adequately using the beak of the Eagles mid-field logo as a guide to help him re-spot the ball. "I think I'd move [the ball] ... It might have made a difference," said Pereira.


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