Referees making it to the Big House is a big deal, too

Jason Frantz and Chris Cooksey had worked hard and dreamed long to make the state basketball tournament at State Fair Arena. Both are referees.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 1, 2013
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photo - Chris Cooksey officiates during the Class B Boys semi-final game of the state high school basketball tournament between Big Pasture and Arnett at the State Fair Arena., Friday, March 1, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Chris Cooksey officiates during the Class B Boys semi-final game of the state high school basketball tournament between Big Pasture and Arnett at the State Fair Arena., Friday, March 1, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Whaley takes all that information and produces playoff assignments. He's proud of his referees. Whaley gives this example of their commitment. When the recent snowstorms wreaked havoc on the tournament schedule, Whaley had to adjust on the fly. There were 560 high school basketball games and 1,280 officiating assignments last week. A bunch of them had to be changed into early this week, and Whaley said only a couple of refs had to back out.

And they don't do it for the money. Refs make $50 a game in the district tournament, $55 in the regional, $60 in the area tournament and $65 in the state tournament.

“We have a great bunch of folks that take the abuse they take,” Whaley said.

Frantz and Cooksey are glad to be in the fraternity.

“There's not too many that like us,” Cooksey said with a smile. “We gotta stick together.”

In high school, the abuse comes mostly from the stands. In the NBA, it's players. In college, coaches. But on the high school level, the ref-coach relationship seems solid.

Oh, the coaches moan and complain. Big Pasture coach Nick Gable got on Cooksey for an intentional foul call in the first half, but at halftime, Gable told Cooksey it was the proper decision. “I appreciated that,” Cooksey said.

The game turned into a rout — Arnett won 72-52 — and the whistles ended up meaning little.

So when a Big Pasture fan who knew of the Cooksey legacy derisively yelled out, “Hey, make the right call; make your dad proud,” Cooksey smiled. His dad was proud.

And before tipoff, when “Oklahoma!” was finished ringing through the rafters of the grand old coliseum, and P.A. announcer Steve Daniels welcomed the teams to Semifinal Friday by saying, “Congratulations, you made it to the Big House,” Frantz smiled, too.

“You know what,” he thought to himself. “I did.”

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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