The Challenges of Intramural Officiating

Intercollegiate athletes can be seen putting in hours of work in the gym or on the field, but their efforts can often pale in comparison to the effort and passion that exudes from dedicated intramural athletes. Yet, no matter how much effort an individual puts into any given intramural sport, the results ultimately depend on the officials and referees put in charge of each particular event.

Ordinary students, in the sense that they have little to no training (extraordinary in the sense that they are all children of God), are put in charge of all sorts of sporting events and expected to control the games to the best of their ability. These officiating positions are a part of the work-study program and unlike most work-study positions the performance of these students has rather large implications.

Nick Palmer, a sophomore at Covenant College, and Joseph Franks, a junior, both expressed confidence in their competence across all of the sports and didn’t think the lack of official training translated to less than stellar officiating.

Connor Sears, a senior and three-year veteran in the intramural department, also cited the rulebooks as helpful resources for officiating.

Besides competency, both Palmer and Franks were honest about their struggles with bias towards one team or another. Palmer came out and directly addressed the question by saying, “I try not to be bias, but I’m not gonna lie I may be internally cheering for a specific team.” Franks took a more nuanced approach and directly addressed the issue of officiating his friends. “I normally try so hard not to be biased towards my friends, so I normally end up making calls that hurt them more than they help…”

Rachel Bachman of The Oregonian wrote an article in 2009 that addresses the supposed biased approaches that NBA referees have been accused of taking over the years. Wilson writes, “…The same study found that NBA referees tend to favor home teams, teams trailing in a game and teams trailing in a playoff series.” If that isn’t enough, a Google search of “bias in officiating” reveals a whole host of results ranging from scholarly articles to articles with titles like “Do College Football Refs Have It In For Your Team?”: making it abundantly clear that bias in officiating remains a prevalent issue in all levels of sports.

Having established that many referees struggle with bias; our intramural referees deserve to be cut a break. When all is said and done, given the extreme importance of their jobs (at least in the eyes of those who pour their heart and soul into the glorious enterprise that is intramurals), we should celebrate the efforts of the officials and respect even their most questionable decisions.