Kennesaw State master’s graduate makes the personal academic

KENNESAW, GA | June 4, 2024

William Reed

As his master’s thesis began to take shape, Kennesaw State University graduate William Reed noticed a limited amount of literature on football referees within exercise science.

So he has taken a new path.

Reed, who earned his master’s degree in exercise science, connected his love of football to his academic interest in human performance, earning high praise along the way. In 2023, he earned honors at the Symposium of Student Scholars and at the Wellstar College of Health and Human Service Research and Engagement Day. In April, he won the Graduate College’s Three-Minute Thesis competition, all because of his research into proper conditioning and analysis of the running form of football officials.

“Football teams and leagues invest millions in their players, but I’ve never seen such investment in officials – conditioning them or studying their work,” said Reed, who has officiated football games for three years. “My courses and research at KSU have led me to study this topic in depth, and I hope to continue researching it.”

In football, a referee, known as an assistant referee, walks along the sideline with a flag in his hand, which negatively affects running form. Reed looked for empirical data on these effects while working as a graduate assistant for associate professor of kinesiology Garrett Hester.

“Most of the subjects’ movements and their associated variables – whether that’s forced production, whether it’s acceleration variables, whether it’s speed or force – are all significantly reduced when they hold that flag,” says Reed, whose dissertation the title was “Kinetic and kinematic effects of unilateral flag execution on referees’ sprint and agility performance.” “Whatever the mechanism, if they hold that flag, performance actually decreases.”

Associate professor of kinesiology Kevin Huet, who officiates college and professional football games, first began working with Reed during Reed’s undergraduate studies; Reed also received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from KSU in 2022. Huet advised the exercise science student group and stayed in touch with Reed as he progressed in his studies. When Reed got the idea for his dissertation, he sought Huet’s advice.

“I have done similar research on football referees, but William came up with this idea himself,” Huet said. “When he presented it to me, I almost jumped out of my chair. I was so excited to see a student continue this research, and I was honored to help him over the years.”

Huet had contacts in several leagues and he gave them to Reed for the investigation. Reed, in turn, worked with officials at multiple levels, from youth to college, even taking on one topic with certification from FIFA, the world’s governing body for soccer. From a referee’s perspective, Reed said he was keen to expand the base of knowledge about football officials beyond studies that simply scrutinize the accuracy of refereeing decisions in the match.

Later, Reed hopes to publish his dissertation in exercise science and strength and conditioning journals, bringing the novelty of the research to an under-studied area. He wouldn’t rule out a PhD focused on sprint mechanics or conditioning of football officials.

“If there is something you are interested in, chances are there is at least one professor who will support you, if not several professors,” he said. “There is room for a person to discover what he or she wants. The world and academia are only growing as students research, research and explore their interests. Because KSU fosters that environment, I can’t think of a better compliment for an academic institution.”

– Story by Dave Shelles

Photos by Darnell Wilburn Jr.

related stories

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it in an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit