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UI earns officiating honor

BY MITCH SMITH | DECEMBER 14, 2009 7:30 AM

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A.J. Haduch is a walking sports rule book.

As a referee, it comes with the territory. The UI senior’s passion for donning the stripes has earned him one of the intramural officials’ highest annual honors.

As the Iowa football team prepares for its Orange Bowl matchup with Georgia Tech in Miami, Haduch will referee approximately 280 miles north in Tampa.

The psychology and political-science major from Park Ridge, Ill., received a bid to officiate at the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Flag-Football National Championships at the University of South Florida.

“It’s cool to get a chance to go down there and see what it’s like,” Haduch said. “I’m definitely looking forward to being evaluated by the top officials.”

The event brings together the winners of the eight regional championships held throughout the United States. It is a three-day event held on Jan. 3-5, 2010.

Mike Widen, an associate director of UI intramurals, said Haduch is the “sixth or seventh” Iowa official since 1993 to receive a bid to a national championship and the first since 2003. Widen received a bid in 1997.

“A.J. has done an outstanding job,” Widen said. “He’s always in control of the game as soon as he steps on the field. I think he’s one of the officials that people want to work with because he has a good time doing it, and he knows his stuff.”

Each referee who works one of the eight regional championships is evaluated by an officials committee that ultimately selects the top 30 officials nationwide. Haduch was selected because of his outstanding officiating in the regional championship held on campus on Nov. 13-15.

Had he not been selected at the Iowa regional, he was considering traveling to another regional tournament at the University of Southern Mississippi to try to qualify there.

An extremely experienced intramural official, he has worked as an intramural referee since his sophomore year, officiating flag football — his favorite sport to referee — as well as basketball, and wrestling. He also started officiating high-school football and basketball this year. He will begin umpiring baseball and softball games this spring.

“It’s a lot of fun being out there officiating with people that know what they’re doing,” he said.

“You’re not by yourself out there. It’s a crew — you’re a team out there. I like learning from other officials. You always pick up on different tendencies.”

He has been able to learn from some of best.

Iowa intramural graduate assistants Jon Randle and Dan Payne were both intramural All-American officials, and Widen is in the UI intramural officials’ hall of fame. Haduch was quick to thank Randle, Payne, and Widen. He said all three have been a tremendous help.

Keeping control and being able to forget are two of the most important parts of being a referee, Haduch said.

“You’ve got to have a short-term memory,” he said. “You can’t let a certain player or certain situation influence how you’re going to officiate the rest of the game. What’s nice about football is you can throw your flag and come together as a crew to discuss what you saw.”

He hopes to attend graduate school for either recreation management or sports management, seeking to ultimately work as a graduate assistant in an intramural department. He definitely wants to keep refereeing high-school athletics for a long time.

And if a college or even a NFL job came calling, he’d certainly listen.

“I’ve had a lot of fun officiating high-school football,” he said. “I know I’m going to keep doing high school for a long time. I don’t know the ins and outs of college officiating, let alone the NFL. But I definitely see myself out there officiating on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.”


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