Has whistle, will travel

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 17, 2007

COURTLAND—From intramural college games to the NCAA Final Four, Larry Rose has worked up the pantheon of basketball officiating on courts all across the nation. Now, the Courtland resident is ready to slow down. But only a little.

By day, Rose, 57, works in administration at Southampton High School in security and dropout prevention. By night, you might have seen him on ESPN calling the most meaningful college basketball games of the season.

Rose has been an NCAA official since 1976 and an NCAA Division I official since 1982. He estimated that he has worked over 2,300 collegiate battles. However, his rise to the top of the profession began reluctantly.

Rose, who attended high school in Franklin and was a three-sport athlete, went to Hampton University on a baseball scholarship and also ended up playing football. He begin his officiating career at Hampton as a reluctant work/study student.

&uot;Isaac Morehead was a professor and a coach at Hampton (and a native of Franklin). Being a student-athlete, we had work study jobs. He threw a whistle at me one day and he said my work study job was officiating intramural basketball,&uot; Rose said. &uot;I said ‘No,’ but he said, ‘You will do it.’

&uot;He was a great man. He really was.&uot;

Although he was forced into his first officiating job, after graduation from Hampton, Rose became certified with the state of Virginia and was a ref in the Peninsula Basketball Association. He officiated games for the Newport News Shipyard recreation league and local high school games.

In 1976, Morehead entered the picture again. He told Rose that Danny Doss, the supervisor of basketball referees for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), wanted to take a look at him as a potential official for the league. He officiated a scrimmage game at Norfolk State.

&uot;I didn’t want to [ref in the collegiate ranks], but Dr. Morehead forced me to, so I ended up starting my college career in 1976 at the Division II level,&uot; Rose said.

Rose called Division II games from 1976 to 1982 when Doss advised him to go to a camp in Pittsburgh, which was being run by Fred Barakat, the new supervisor of referees and assistant commissioner for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Rose became an ACC official through that camp. This was the big-time, but it was just the beginning.

Rose has also worked games in the Big East, Southeastern, Big 12,

Conference USA, Sunbelt, Big South, and Atlantic 10 conferences. During that time, he called 22 straight NCAA Division I tournaments. Eighteen of those 22 years, he officiated Sweet 16 games, and 12 of those years he called Elite Eight games. He has made it to the Final Four six times. In 2002, he was the Naismith Award Winner for the College official of the Year.

With all those big games under his belt, Rose can still pick out the toughest game he has ever officiated — the 1995 ACC championship semifinals, where Rasheed Wallace’s North Carolina Tar Heels faced off with Joe Smith’s Maryland Terrapins.

&uot;That was a war. That was tremendous,&uot; he said.

As fanatical college basketball fans gather in the spring for March Madness to watch some of the most important and intriguing match-ups of the season, Rose said officials don’t get caught up in the importance of it all.

&uot;I was trained not to do that, and they made you just think of the task at all times,&uot; he said. &uot;When you are calling a game of that magnitude, you’ve got to stay on task. Calling games in front of 20,000 fans and on national TV, you can’t afford to make a mistake.&uot;

Rose said officials understand that mistakes are part of the profession and that one side will always think you are wrong when you blow the whistle.

&uot;I am an official who will tell a coach that I blew it,&uot; Rose said. &uot;Mike Krzyzewski has told me that I am honest. We do make mistakes. We just got to be honest about it.&uot;

Rose’s travel load will be cut down next basketball season with a new position he has just taken as the court supervisor of officials for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. He was hired by Dr. Dennis Thomas, MEAC commissioner, after sitting on the job for a year.

&uot;I was going to stay another five or six years, traveling and calling six games a week. I would be in Texas one night and New York the next night and Florida the next. I had been doing this forever, 80 to 110 ball games a year for the last 16 years,&uot; he said. &uot;I will have less travel and more training and responsibility. My job is to hire and fire and develop officials for the conference. It’s a tough job.&uot;

Although two of the schools in the MEAC are nearby — Hampton University, his alma mater, and Norfolk State University, and the MEAC offices are now located in Virginia Beach, Rose will still be hitting the road.

&uot;We have 13 schools from Baltimore to Florida. I will be traveling to at least two games a week,&uot; he said.

With basketball in his veins, Rose wouldn’t have it any other way.