Calling it how they see it

Basketball intramurals referee Steve Stout works a game at Bear Down Gym. Stout makes $5.50 per game but said he does it for the free entertainment.

Basketball intramurals referee Steve Stout works a game at Bear Down Gym. Stout makes $5.50 per game but said he does it for the ‘free entertainment.’

Ari Wasserman

What is possibly the most overlooked job in all of sports often turns out to be the most critical.

Ironically, referees are hated and disrespected throughout athletics, although their influential calls can be the deciding factor.

Science sophomore Matt Seward and landscape architecture junior Steve Stout are two people willing to take on the challenge, as they are both basketball referees earning $5.50 per game.

Seward also plays for the Arizona men’s club rugby team, so he has a unique way of understanding both referee and player perspectives when calling a game and said he keeps that in consideration when he is officiating.

“”I realized that I have to look at a lot more detail as a ref because I am also a player,”” Seward said. “”When I see questionable calls, I can definitely put myself in the situation, unlike other refs who have never competed in a game, and I think that helps with the relationship with the players.””

Seward said that being a player helps him significantly with his job because he understands how it is to be a player.

“”I wait to make my calls until I see them, whereas other referees sometimes anticipate a penalty and call it before it actually happens,”” Seward said. “”I’ll let body-to-body go a little longer than other refs. As long as the players have control, I won’t whistle it dead because I understand how it is to be out there.””

Seward said that he understands when players get upset at the referees, but he said he can only call what he sees.

“”No matter what, it seems that we are always the bad guy,”” Stout said.

Being a referee has never been an easy job. Throughout the history of sports, there have been plenty of controversial calls, and referees are often blamed for the outcome.

In Super Bowl XL, Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren told fans at a gathering the day after the game that he felt his team was on the short end of a lot of calls.

“”We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers,”” Holmgren said in an Associated Press article. “”I didn’t know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well.””

Even at the beginning level, referees are not allowed to be just anybody, Seward said.

The referees of the Arizona Intramurals basketball league are highly trained, said Ashley Gilpin, the sports assistant for intramurals at the Student Recreation Center.

“”They start out with an informational process,”” Gilpin said. “”We go over the basics and mechanics of officiating. Then we get them out on live training.””

Whether or not referees are prepared enough to referee the games is questionable, said education junior Eric Cordova, an intramurals basketball team captain.

“”I think they know some of the rules,”” Cordova said. “”I think they need to learn the rule book a lot better.””

The refs have a week of extensive training for three hours per day so that they are prepared to call a fair game, Gilpin said.

But some feel the week of training is not enough.

“”I feel like sometimes with the refs it is their first time out there,”” Cordova said. “”Even if it means refereeing mock games, they need to be prepared when doing the games.””

Gilpin disagreed, saying the referees are more than prepared to officiate the games.

“”Sometimes you get a questionable call because the refs don’t know the rules like they should,”” Cordova said.

It isn’t even all about questionable calls, Cordova said. “”After all, the referees are students,”” Cordova said. “”Sometimes they are getting ready to ref a game and they don’t realize that they have a friend on one of the teams. That definitely leads to being biased in their calls, and that’s a flaw in the system.””

Despite constant questioning on their calls from the players, Stout said that there are plenty of advantages. “”It is always fun watching the kids play,”” Stout said. “”Being a ref is pretty much like having free entertainment.””The job also comes with much responsibility, both student-referees said, even at the intramural level, as students are highly competitive and want a fair game called.””The major thing we have to make sure is that we are not the deciding factor in the game,”” Seward said.