10 things to know about SEC's referees

Official Ted Valentine talks with Tony Greene during the Kentucky game Sunday

TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 9, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

1. How much do they make?

You might be surprised to learn that it can be very lucrative to be an SEC official. The base pay depends on seniority, anywhere from $900 to $1,100 but the officials also receive expenses. And not your ordinary room and a hot meal.

The officials receive the value of a walk-up airline ticket to the SEC city where they are officiating the game, plus mileage if they, say, fly to Jacksonville and drive down.

For example, for the Feb. 14 game between Florida and Vanderbilt in Gainesville, the three officials were Pat Adams, Doug Shows and Mike Thibodeux.

Adams received a total of $2,342, Shows $2,464,50 and Thibodeux $2,262. That's a total of $7,068.50 paid out for officials.

So who pays it? The host school. Florida had a budget of $175,000 for officials for home basketball games this season.

The officials who will work the 11 games at the SEC Tournament receive the same pay per game.

2. How about their regular jobs?

 "It's difficult," said former official Don Rutledge, who now serves as an associate supervisor for the SEC. "You're always wondering about what's going on back at work. A lot of guys take vacations."

Rutledge served as a coach, administrator and athletic director at Volusia Community College during his officiating career. Gerald Boudreaux, who became the SEC's supervisor of basketball officials last year, spent 20 years juggling his job as director of parks and recreation in Lafayette, La.

"Some guys use vacations, others use flex time," he said. "What some guys will do is double up on their workloads during the off-season to allow them to have more time off during the season. But it signifies the importance of what they are doing."

All of the SEC refs have real jobs. Karl Hess is a doctor. Mike Stuart is in banking. Joe Lindsay is a federal employee. Ted Valentine is in real estate.

3. Are there any restrictions?

The main restrictions, Boudreaux said, concern common sense. The only written rules concern family members.

“The only written conflict is if an official has family members who are employed by the school or there is some litigation involved,” he said. “But there are certainly some guidelines we try to utilize. Common sense things to avoid conflicts.”

That includes not allowing graduates of an SEC school to work that school's games. But in the case of an official like Stuart, who lives in Knoxville, the league lets him officiate non-conference games involving Tennessee but not SEC games involving the Vols.

There is no such thing as a blackball anymore. No matter how much a coach might dislike a certain official and want him off games, the NCAA prohibits any kind of blacklisting of officials.

4. Is there accountability?

“There's this perception that these guys walk into the place and walk out and it's over,” Boudreaux said. “There are so many things they have to do to try to get better.”

Said Rutledge, “I don't think fans realize what the officials have to do and I don't think the fans care. But our goal is to educate and help the officials. We're not looking over their shoulders.”

But they are with them after the games. The league tries to have an observer at every conference game who will meet with the officials after the game and send a report to Boudreaux.

There's more than that. The NCAA has requirements that have to be met including mandatory clinics. The SEC has a website that officials must spend time reviewing and which includes tests. If an official is working in two leagues, that makes three Websites he has to visit weekly and take exams. And there are conference calls twice a months where different plays are reviewed.

When the officials leave a campus, they are given a DVD of the game to review.

And the officials know that Boudreaux gets calls from the league's coaches.

“It's an ongoing thing,” Boudreaux said. “It's a big responsibility for our officials, to hold themselves to a higher standard.”

5. Are they overworked?

Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight created a stink a couple of weeks ago (now there's a shocker) when he complained about officials working too many games.

“There's no way officials should work more than three games a week,” Knight said.

But it's not uncommon to flip on the TV one night and see an official like Karl Hess working an SEC game and then flip it on the next night and see him at an ACC game. Ted Valentine has worked more than 70 games in a season in the past.

The officials are independent contractors who have no restrictions. Those who want the leagues to hire officials on a full-time basis aren't factoring in medical and retirement costs.

Plus, the coaches who complain about overworked officials will also be the first ones to complain when they don't get the best ones for their games.

“When I officiated, I limited myself because my family was important to me,” Boudreaux said. “I never wanted to overdo it. I have that same philosophy in my role as coordinator. I discuss it with the officials to make sure they're rested and make sure they're not playing hurt.

“I also know the nature of the beast is that you want your best officials at the best games. And that if we restrict how many games an official can do in our league, he's going to go to another league and work.”

Said Rutledge, “The travel wears you down. But once you get on the court, you're energized.”

6. How many at SEC tourney?

The list is set with 18 officials getting the call. Boudreaux made the selections based on conversations and evaluations with Rutledge and Andre Patillo, the other associate supervisor.

Getting the tournament is a reward both financially and professionally for the officials. With 11 games, in four days, the 18 officials should not be overworked.

7. Who calls the most fouls?

Going just by Florida's SEC games this year, you probably had to pay the baby-sitter overtime if Tom Lopes was doing the game. In four Florida games this season, the crews that included Lopes called 173 fouls on the two teams playing.

Only once did one of the teams not get whistled for 20 fouls or more. In two of those games he was working with Gary Maxwell, who was part of teams that called 122 fouls in three Florida games.

During Florida's 16 conference games, almost all of the officials called more fouls on the visitor than on the home team. Tom Eades called 15 more on the visitors in three games, Joe Lindsay 16 more in four. Most of the rest were close.

The one who had multiple games and called more on the home team was Bruce Benedict.

8. What gets a coach a T?

“There are some automatics,” Boudreaux said.

If a coach takes off his coat and tosses it with some hang time, that's a technical.

If a coach slams the scorer's table, it's a technical.

If he kicks or throws a chair, that's a technical.

“But guys can get technicals sitting down,” Boudreaux said. “It still depends on the situation and who is involved.”

9. Do they hear the fans?

Oh, they hear them. They just try to ignore them.

“Three Blind Mice, that doesn't penetrate the skin,” Boudreaux said. “At certain times you hear the fans when it gets quiet during a break in the action. But 90 percent of the time, you try to block it out. When it gets personal and vulgar, that's when it gets to you.”

Said Rutledge, “The only time it has ever really bothered me is when someone was cussing and I looked over and saw kids around the guy. But the rest of it comes with the territory. The thing is, they're watching the ball and I'm watching the defender. My concentration level is a lot higher than theirs because I don't want to make a mistake.”

10. Who has most UF games?

It was a tie between Joe Lindsay and Pat Adams, but that was before Lindsay worked the Florida-Kentucky game Sunday. Lindsay ended up doing six Florida games while Adams and Tony Greene, who also worked the game, are tied for second with five.

Since the number of games worked is an indication of the level of respect for the officials, you can expect to see them in Atlanta.

There are nine officials who have done four of Florida's games this season — Ed Corbett, Doug Sirmons, Anthony Jordan, Mike Stuart, Gary Maxwell, Doug Shows, Tom Eades, Karl Hess and Tom Lopes.

In all, there have been 44 different officials who have refereed Florida's 33 games (counting two exhibitions). Half of them have done more than one game.

“The magic number is seven,” Boudreaux said. “We try not to get to that point where a guy does seven or more of one team's games. We don't want an official to be overexposed at any one institution.”

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