Arthur Ignatius McNally (July 1, 1925 – January 1, 2023) was a highly respected American football executive who left an indelible mark on the sport. He served as the director of officiating for the National Football League (NFL) for an impressive span, from 1968 to 1991. McNally’s contributions to the world of sports officiating earned him a place in the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022, a historic achievement as the first NFL game official to receive this honor.
Arthur McNally hailed from the vibrant city of Philadelphia and was born on July 1, 1925. He embarked on his educational journey by graduating from Roman Catholic High School in 1943. Following his high school years, he patriotically served in the Marines during World War II. After his military service, McNally pursued higher education and graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Before his illustrious career in sports officiating, McNally dedicated his time as a teacher and coach within the Philadelphia school district, specifically at Central High School. His passion for sports and commitment to education laid the foundation for his future endeavors.
McNally’s journey in the world of officiating began when he assumed the role of a field judge and referee in the NFL. This period spanned nine years, from 1959 to 1967, during which he presided over countless football games, in addition to baseball and basketball matches. Notably, he also spent a year officiating in the National Basketball Association (NBA), showcasing his versatility as a sports official.
NFL Director of Officiating
In 1968, McNally reached a pivotal juncture in his career when he was appointed as the NFL’s director of officiating. In this influential role, he led a department of five dedicated individuals responsible for overseeing a substantial team of 112 game officials. McNally’s responsibilities extended to scouting, screening, hiring, and grading the seven-man officiating crews integral to each NFL game.
One of McNally’s groundbreaking contributions was his pioneering use of game footage for the meticulous evaluation of game officials. His commitment to enhancing the quality of officiating in the NFL left an enduring legacy.
McNally’s exemplary tenure as director of officiating continued until the end of the 1990 season. After retiring from this esteemed role, he assumed the position of Supervisor of Officials for the World League of American Football in December 1991, a position he held for five years. His dedication to sports officiating persisted as he remained a league consultant and game observer in the years that followed.
In 1996, McNally returned to the NFL front office, taking up the role of an assistant supervisor of officials, a position he served in until 2008. He later transitioned into an observer role for eight seasons, where his expertise continued to benefit the league. McNally’s official retirement was marked following the 2015 season.
Personal Life and Passing
Arthur McNally was married twice during his lifetime. His first wife, Rita, was his partner until her passing in 1981. In 1986, he entered into marriage with his second wife, Sharon. Together, they shared their lives and raised four children: Zach, Jonah, Brayden, and Jake.
Remarkably, McNally held the distinction of being the oldest living member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame following the passing of Charley Trippi in October 2022, underscoring his enduring legacy in the sport.
On January 1, 2023, Arthur Ignatius McNally peacefully passed away at the age of 97 in a hospice facility located in Yardley, Pennsylvania. His contributions to the world of sports officiating continue to be celebrated, leaving an indomitable mark on the NFL and beyond.