BYU intramural referees: Give them a break

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Getting an earful from fans and players should come in the job description for referees of all sports, including BYU intramurals.

Referees may be the most scrutinized professionals in sports. They’re blamed by fans, professional players, coaches and even owners for anything that goes wrong. They get booed, balls thrown their way and may even get spit on.

Intramural referees, from left to right, Jed Harrison, Joshua Jamias, Whitney Winters. (Photo by Chris Bunker)
BYU intramural referees, from left, Jed Harrison, Joshua Jamias and Whitney Winters. (Photo by Chris Bunker)

Alvin Ye, a student majoring in manufacturing engineering, has played on intramural teams for several semesters and is only one of many athletes who’s had unfavorable feelings toward the officials. He wasn’t hesitant to voice what he thought of some of the intramural officiating he’s been involved in.

“They try hard to make fair calls but end up frustrating the players more by making bad calls,” Ye said. “They aren’t trained as well as players would like. They often hesitate on calls for violations and end up calling something else way after the instance happened.”

Marsa Lee, a TESOL and Japanese major, has participated in intramural sports for the past five years but doesn’t have harsh feelings toward intramural referees.

“I think they’re OK,” Lee said. “Sometimes, I wish they would be a bit more consistent with their reffing because it makes it confusing for the players when they’re not. But overall, I don’t think I’ve had any horrible experiences.”

Brendan Bogenschutz, a commercial recreation major, has been an intramural referee for three years, officiating mainly basketball and football. Despite what intramural athletes or fans may think, intramural officials go through training before officiating games, especially basketball.

“Depending on the sport, you receive quite a bit of training,” Bogenschutz said. “For example, basketball refs study and take the high school officials test. We study the rulebook on a regular basis as well as receive on-court training.”

It’s not always the easiest job to make the right call during the heat of the moment, but that doesn’t excuse athletes from ignoring the rules of sportsmanship. Whether it is professional officials in the NFL or NBA or intramural referees at BYU, making perfect calls wouldn’t be enough.

However, Bogenschutz said working hard, hustling and getting in the right position can help referees make the right calls as often as possible.

“I think that (referees) are viewed, often, as the enemy, especially if your team or the team you are rooting for isn’t winning,” Bogenschutz said. “I also feel that if you are going to be an official you have to be prepared for fans and players to scrutinize your work. No matter how good you are, you’re not going to make everyone happy as an official.”

A losing team isn’t going to walk away happy with certain calls or lack of calls received during games and tensions will rise.

According to the BYU intramural website, “Activity supervisors and game officials are given the responsibility to monitor sportsmanship and to administer yellow/red cards when necessary.”

Referees are often blamed for ruining the outcomes of games, but they rarely get credit for doing a good job refereeing a game. It is their responsibility to keep the game under control and to officiate a game to the best of their abilities.

“Most often, players get heated with the opposing team,” Bogenschutz said. “Players often do feel we may have made an unfavorable call, which may or may not be true, but it’s important to defuse the situation as best and quickly as possible. Hopefully it doesn’t end up with a yellow or red card, but at times it may.”

BYU intramural referee Joshua Jamias signals a personal foul to the scorer's table during an intramural basketball game. (Photo by Chris Bunker)
BYU intramural referee Joshua Jamias signals a personal foul to the scorer’s table during an intramural basketball game. (Photo by Chris Bunker)

Megan Amis, an exercise science major and an intramural official of four semesters, has witnessed a number of heated arguments, one of which occurred in a recent basketball game.

“A guy was going up for a lay-up, and the defensive player jumped with him and body checked him,” Amis said. “We called the foul, but that wasn’t enough for the offensive player. He wanted the intentional (foul); however, it was not worthy of that call, so he got in the defensive player’s face and screamed about how cheap that play was. The defensive guy argues back; however, we as refs stepped in before punches were thrown.”

Amis is aware of what people may think of referees, including female officials like herself, and believes it’s unfair to be judged before the game may even start, but she isn’t bothered by that.

“I, as a female, am stereotyped as a ‘dumb girl who doesn’t know the rules of the sports,'” Amis said. “I think it is hilarious to watch the players’ views change by the end of the game when they realize I actually do know the rules and do know what I am doing.”

Sports officials don’t take the job to be hated by fans and athletes; they, too, love sports. Bogenschutz knows how referees are viewed, but he continues to officiate games. He hopes to create a fun experience for students and take away the worries from their studies for an hour or two.

Bogenschutz attended two other colleges before BYU, but said BYU intramural programs are the best from what he’s seen. According to BYU’s intramural activities website, over 12,000 people have participated in the sports available throughout the years.

“BYU officials are trained, although some may feel we need much more training,” Bogenschutz said. “The grounds are kept up very nicely, and there are tons of teams to join offering various skill levels and such a wide array of options, from wallyball and inner tube water polo to football and basketball.”

Sports referees and their calls will always be a controversial topic, but perhaps BYU intramural refs deserve to catch a break.

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