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Nicknamed the "Dean of NFL Referees", Tunney was the first official to be named to the "All-Madden Team" in 1990 and won the "Gold Whistle Award" in 1992 from the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO). He wore uniform number 32 for most of his career, but when the NFL numbered each position separately from 1979 through 1981 rather than assigning one number per official, he wore number 3.
In his 31 years as an NFL official, Jim Tunney received a record 29 post-season assignments, including ten Championship games and Super Bowls VI, XI, and XII and was named as an alternate in Super Bowl XVIII. He is the first referee who has worked consecutive Super Bowls, the last referee to conduct the coin toss for the Super Bowl, and was also the first referee to supervise a coin toss conducted by a special guest.
Tunney was a member of Commissioner Tagliabue's Officiating 2000 Committee, and was Vice Chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee for Northern California (Sydney 2000 Games). In 1993, he founded the Jim Tunney Youth Foundation, which supports community programs and resources that work with youth to develop leadership, work skills, wellness, and self-esteem. He wrote a weekly column for the Monterey Herald and is a motivational speaker.
Off the field, Tunney has had a long career as an educator and school administrator, starting out in 1951 as a teacher at Los Angeles' Lincoln High School, later becoming vice principal from 1959 to 1964. He then served as a principal of Los Angeles high schools Fairfax (1964-1970), Franklin (1972), and Hollywood High School (1973-74). He became assistant superintendent of secondary education for the Bellflower Unified School District in 1975 and served as the district's superintendent in 1977. He left education for 16 years before becoming headmaster from 1993 to 1994 of the York School in Monterey, California, joining the school's board of trustees in 1995. He also joined the board of trustees for Monterey Peninsula College in 1997.
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