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David W. "Wils" Merriman

Officiating ∙ Beaver Falls

 

 

 

 

David (Wils) Merriman could be called an innovator. As a football official in the early twentieth century, he was certainly known for his dedication to fair play and sportsmanship. Wils started refereeing in 1907 and continued through the 1940 season. During that tenure, he worked games involving some of the all time greats, and for the most part was one in a two man officiating crew. Wils is believed to be the first referee to position himself on the playing field instead of the sidelines, which had been the previous custom, and he also officiated the first game in which players wore numbered jerseys. Wils was in demand throughout the nation and worked games at Notre Dame, Pitt, Navy, Georgia Tech, and Carlisle. He referred in the Orange Blossom Bowl, the forerunner to the Orange Bowl, when Geneva played Oglethorpe, and also refereed many high school games and was a basketball referee for 26 years. Wils was born in 1882 and died in 1966.