We were fortunate to spend a few moments to delve into the mind of NCAA Official, Casey McClellan, as he was on the road. Just hours before he would officiate a game with BYU, Casey shared a few of his insites and perspective on the game he’s played, coached, and now calls.
What is your involvement now as it relates to sports, and where do you spend a majority of your time?
Currently I am a referee for the NCAA. I used to ref for High School, but it has been some time. Most of my time now though is spent out on the West Coast. I’m anywhere from Denver, CO, to the Bay Area and anywhere in between.
Do you get many opportunities to catch any Region 9 games with your NCAA schedule?
I do try to get out to the games here in Region 9 when I am in town. I like seeing the guys. There is some sort of a brotherhood in officiating where you try and support one another. I try to see as many games as I possibly can.
Are there times you feel referees get a bad rap?
Well, you know as a referee that every time your whistle goes off, you are going to disappoint somebody. One team is happy, and the other team is upset. We are just there trying to adjudicate the rules. We certainly don’t set out to influence the game, who wins or who loses. Yes, sometimes we do come out looking like the bad guys, but we feel it an honor to be very much a part of the game and try to do our very best to make sure that the kids determine the outcome of the game.
What do you believe plays a factor when it comes to making a bad call or missing a call altogether?
As an official, when your whistle goes off, you have to have a high certainty of what you see. Our eyes do lie to us from time to time, and we make a bad call. It may just be that we have a bad angle. What someone can see from the fifth row, might be a better look from what we see from five feet away. The angles play in factor, but when you’re out there, you have to be confident in your training.
When I miss a call, it eats me alive, so what I have to do though is hit the reset button. I’m not afraid to go over and tell a coach, “You know what; I may have missed that one.” That being said, you never want to miss one with 5 seconds left in the game that will have an outcome on who wins or who loses.
How do you avoid being accused of deciding a game?
When we make a call, with let’s say a minute left, everyone thinks we’re the determining factor in who wins or loses. The reality is that 30 seconds ago the home team might have had a chance to make two free throws. If you look over the course of 32 minutes in high school or 40 minutes in college, there a lot of things that happen that potentially determine the outcome of the game.
What’s the preparation like that you and your officiating team put in before tip off even begins?
We watch an enormous amount of video to look for tendencies and understand the sets teams are trying to run so that we can get in the right position to make the right calls. We put in a lot of training to give us that confidence in the game. Repetition is important because we get better with each game as well. Just like a young guy that is playing basketball, he doesn’t shoot his first three-point shot when he gets into a game. He’s probably shot a thousand threes before that. Well, we’ve seen a thousands of plays, so when that game is played, it’s not the first time that we’ve seen the play.
Share some things you say to coaches during time-outs?
The one thing really good referees try to do is preventive officiating. Meaning, if we can catch something early that was borderline or marginal and if we can let the kid or the coach know early and explain how they can avoid it next time, we try and do that. We want to do our best to help the players not make a violation. It’s going to make the game better. We want kids to score, and we want baskets to go in. We don’t like blowing the whistle and giving out technical fouls.
What’s the emotion like going into a rivalry game?
I love being in games where there is a lot of energy and excitement. One of the most exciting games I’ve ever refereed in my career was a Dixie and Pine View game, way back when they played for the State Championship in the Burns Arena. We know that there is some added emotion to those games. The crowd is a little bit more edgy than normal, but that’s where we have to be the calm in the storm. Certainly what makes high school and college basketball so fun are those rivalries and that passion. We just have to be the ones that don’t allow that passion and excitement to boil over into something negative.
With players, coaches, and spectators what would you want them to remember going into the season?
What a great opportunity our young guys in Region 9 and Southern Utah have to compete against each other at a very high level. Every team in that region has quality players who could potentially play at the next level, and there is great pride in ever school in Region 9. That is not something that you see across the state. It appears that each and every year Region 9 is going to be competing deep into the post season for a State Championship. We have a great product here in Southern Utah. That being said, because there is a very high intensity level, high stress, passion in the game, referees just try to protect the players according to the rules. With one second to react to a play, we do what we can to make the best call according to our angle. Many officials show little emotion
We have to be careful to sterilize our emotions so that it is not misinterpreted which is unfortunate thing because I love being out there watching kids make plays. I love being involved with the game of basketball. As refs, we always have to be aware of what’s happening on the floor, but when both teams get to their bench during a dead ball, absolutely we talk. I might say something like, “Man did you see that kid make that amazing play?” But we also use those times to make sure we are all on the same page when we are calling the game.
Miss anything about officiating high school basketball?
The passion. Region 9 and Region 15, there is as much passion in those games as there is at any level I have refereed. Obviously the arenas sizes are smaller, but the passion that those athletes bring into those local high schools, the parents, the booster clubs, the coaches, they love their high schools. Not one kid that I know that has played in Region 9 puts away their basketball when the season is over. These kids are working extremely hard throughout the year. There are some regions that don’t have that same passion.
How do you feel about our coaches in Region 9 and how they have handled their roles with our student athletes?
I have a great relationship with all the coaches, and I can tell you the one thing that is consistent with each of them is that they all care deeply about their players. They are certainly influencing them beyond basketball to become great young men. I wish them and the players well this year, and I look forward to watching them all compete. • HSSI