Junction football official Bubba Bullen touched by Hall of Fame induction
Officials often get looked at negatively, but that never bothered David ‘Bubba’ Bullen.
The 58-year-old Grand Junction man looks back on his 34 years officiating high school and college football fondly.
Bullen is being inducted into the Colorado Football Officials Association Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon in Denver.
“Coming home with some of the guys, a lot of my friends are still officiating,” he said. “I wish people could spend some time officiating. We work so hard at it. We don’t want to mess up anymore than anybody else. When it’s over, you laugh. I don’t know how I got into the Hall of Fame. I certainly appreciate the fact someone gave me a chance. It’s quite an honor. It means a lot to me to be in it.”
Bullen joins a handful of other Western Slope residents in the Hall of Fame. The list includes Richard Cozza, Floyd Hunt, Mike Kronkright, Bill Fanning, Jared Morris, Carl Strauss, Lloyd McMillan, former coach and athletic director Bill McGraw and broadcaster Gene Rozelle.
“He’s excited,” older brother and official Mike Bullen said. “There aren’t many people that get recognized like this. It’s a huge accomplishment. Obviously, it has to do with longevity, leadership and quality of officiating.”
Bubba has worked eight state championship games, some RMAC games and served as the Western Slope area vice president for nearly 10 years.
“One of the things, Bubba was aware of years ago when he was running the officials association, you have to bring young officials along and teach them how to handle situations,” Mike said. “In the last several years, we have a nice setup for getting officials.
“One of the things we talked about is making the association better than it was when he started from rules to knowledge and working with teammates.”
As area director, Bubba attended meetings at state level.
“He was instrumental in saying, we have good football in Grand Junction and have good officials,” Mike said. “His push as an area director got it going for Grand Junction officials to work state championship games.”
Bubba enjoyed working the small-school football games as much as Mesa County District 51 games or even the RMAC.
“People that didn’t get to enjoy Plateau Valley High School need to take time and see that,” Bubba said. “Smaller schools were as much fun as anything. I still have a lot of friends up there.”
The friendships he built with fellow officials, coaches and even spectators made the journey all the more worthwhile — even if he was cursed during a game.
“There are coaches that come back and say, you know, I saw that play on tape and you were right,” Bubba said. “Coaches will throw a fit, then you see them later and they will say, that was the right call.
“I worked the state championship game between Rifle and Sterling. On the last call, Sterling roughed the kicker. I felt really good about the call. Nobody in Sterling was happy. You see people from Sterling and they say you were right.”
Whether Bubba made the right call or messed one up, he was always good about discussing it with the coaches, they say.
“It’s a great honor for Mr. Bullen,” former Palisade and Colorado Mesa coach Joe Ramunno said. “It was always about the game and not him. The Bullens worked well and communicated well together with the sidelines. You knew you had the best crew when you had those guys. I’m proud of him getting into the Hall of Fame.”
“One of the best things you can say about an official, if you’re not noticed it’s going well,” longtime Central coach Vern McGee said. “He wasn’t really noticed. You didn’t notice him throwing flags. He communicated with the kids well.”
Bubba grasped when enough was enough.
“We had a freshman game,” official Sam Provenza said. “It was getting a little cold and dark. One official decided to started throwing flags. Finally, a flag came out one more time. Bubba grabbed it and put the flag in his pocket.
“With Bubba it didn’t matter if it was a freshmen game or an RMAC game. At the same time, he was never so serious, you were afraid of him. He kept it light for the officials. Even in a tight game, he kept it pretty level. When a guy gives his best effort, you want to give your best effort.”