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UI’s top guns of officiating

BY IAN MARTIN | DECEMBER 11, 2009 7:30 AM

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Little did anyone know that the Field House had two All-Americans.

Two intramural graduate assistants, 24-year-olds Dan Payne and Jon Randle, were named All-American intramural referees in their respective sports in 2007, and they now work for Recreational Services at Iowa. While much of their new jobs consist of supervising younger intramural refs, the two still put on the stripes for big games.

Both have officiated at the high-school level for their sports — football and baseball for Payne and basketball for Randle — and even youth games. This year, the pair took on many of the big flag-football contests at Iowa.

“You can tell they’ve experienced a lot of games,” intramural assistant and UI junior Ross Bower said. “They just do the little things that our younger refs don’t.”

Payne, a native of Georgia, received his start in officiating as an undergraduate at Florida State University. After working numerous sports for a few years, he received a bid to go to the American Collegiate Intramural Sports National Flag-Football Championships as a referee in 2007.

Even though it was his first year at nationals, he received the accolade of an All-American, meaning he was one of the top 12 officials of the 30 at the tournament held in New Orleans.

“Dec. 31, 2007,” said Payne rattling off the exact date he won the award. “It was an awesome day; it was New Year’s on Bourbon Street.”

Gary Cahen, the director of officials for the National Campus Championship Series, says all the evaluators of the All-American Referees are former All-Americans, and they hold referees to a high standard.

“It is pretty prestigious,” said Cahen, an All-American himself at the University of Central Florida in 2001. “In the campus recreation and intramural sports field, it’s a really big honor.”

In Randle’s case, he won the award in his second year at a national tournament. Hailing from Lubbock, Texas, he attended the University of North Texas-Denton for his undergraduate years.

Trying intramural refereeing because his older brother did it, Randle was given a shot at the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association national basketball tournament in both 2006 and 2007. In the latter year, at the tournament held at Ohio State University, he was named an All-American, which he considers to be the highest honor.

“The way I describe it to people is that it’s like Top Gun for intramural officials,” Randle said. “It’s the best of the best.”

Both are now leisure-studies majors at the UI, and both say they want to continue to work in campus recreation for a career.

The two also talked about their experiences officiating with passion, recounting various stories in which their call affected the game much like a retired player can recount his game-winning shots.

Randle described the time he was calling a high-school women’s basketball playoff in Texas, with the winner of the game going to the state tournament. His carrying call on a star guard turned the game around and eventually led to the go-ahead shot from the team that had been behind.

Payne told a story from his year at nationals, in which his intentional-grounding flag led to the game-winning drive in the women’s semifinal game.

And with the way they talk about it, both act as though they want to continue officiating for as long as they can.

“I love it,” Payne said. “It’s so much fun.”


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