Basketball Officials of the World, Arise! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Lunch!

   You may not know that basketball officials in Texas are much like baptists. We recruit valiantly, train sporadically and split convulsively.

   There are two high school basketball associations for referees now, along with some independents who make individual contracts. All can be sanctioned by the governing body, the UIL. There is very little rhyme or reason to all this mess. To quote the old saying, it is who you know, not much what you know.

   I stayed with TASO, an organization famous for doing very little for basketball referees. The larger chapters broke off to form the Lone Star Association, over leadership differences, money, power and prestige. We have actually had representatives from both groups come out to recruit us, one to stay and one to go.

   Understand the problems. There are more schools than ever, more kids than ever and fewer referees for more games. Many chapters will not do small schools and will not do sub-varsity for anyone. The money is not there for sub-varsity, the games are much earlier and the abuse, because many sub-varsity coaches, players and parents are inexperienced, is worse. Much worse.

   Basketball is about running, working hard and making split second decisions, with ten bodies flying around you. People in the stands, as much as twenty feet above the action and with an unobstructed view, may actually see the play better. You have to go with what you have got on the court and do your best.

   A sub-varsity game may start at 4pm, require a lengthy drive and pay less than it costs to get there. The court is the same length, the fans are worse and the exertion is pretty dreadful.

   Policing of unruly or abusive fans by school personnel is spotty at best. They must live in the town and work at the school, while the referee can just drive away (if able) at the end of the evening. Of the guys/girls I have known who gave up the sport, the premier reason is fan abuse. In basketball, frequently, the fans are right down on top of you.

   Some schools use coaches to call sub-varsity to save money or because no one else is available. I will put this very kindly. Coaches may or may not know the rules and are put in a bad position when they must call a game with athletes they may have to coach and parents they may have to face. The kids do not learn, the games proceed oddly and the parents are more angry than ever.

   The solution? There are two solutions.

   Throw money at it. Basketball referees have not gotten a meaningful raise in some time. Raise the rate for referees of sub-varisty games and pass the cost on to the consumer. Many gyms let almost everybody in for free and then complain basketball is a money loser. Of course it is but that is not the fault of the referee.

   Then, expand to three-referee  crews for all varsity games and sub-varsity high school games in 4A and 5A, at least for boys. More referees will be able to put off knee replacement surgery for a few years longer if we can do a three-referee mechanic. Again, the slight additional cost can be assuaged by charging more people two or three dollars to enter the gym for games.

   The alternative is more of the same. Chaos will reign.


4 thoughts on “Basketball Officials of the World, Arise! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Lunch!”

  1. I find great irony in hearing YOU talk about fan abuse of basketball officials. Are you the same tall, skinny, baptist preacher that was kicked out of every h.s. gym in Ellis County and half of the ones in Johnson County for “assisting” refs during games. I think that I even remember hearing you quote scripture about how it was acceptable to yell at the refs. Something out of Leviticus I think. Who knows, no one ever reads that book anyway.
    I do have to admit, since you’ve turned and gone to the “dark side” games are not nearly entertaining as they once were. Today, insteading of gambling on the over and under as to how long you would last before being tossed (I always took the under) we have to actually watch the game. On second thought the games are probably the same there is just less entertainment in the stands.
    May Joan’s tribe continue to increase.

  2. Rick,
    If there were such a thing, I would nominate you to be the patron saint of noble, yet difficult, causes. You are certainly a glutton for punishment. I trust you will enjoy this year of calling games.

  3. To set the record straight, Mike Marshall, who comments erroneously above, was my deacon chairman at FBC, Midlothian. We have this kind of relationship; he pokes at me, I poke at him.
    We are fast friends.
    You should also know I have never, ever been tossed out of a gym, anywhere, at any time. In 22 years of coaching basketball on some level, I was assessed exactly two technicals. That is one every 11 years.
    Mike is engaging in hyperbole, which he probably cannot spell and certainly does not know.

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