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Prep Notebook

Football, hoop ref relishes his role

He loved sports and loved competition.

But growing up in the heyday of Medford High football, he didn't have the physique to battle what he perceived to be a slough of galloping ghosts and blocks of granite.

So Jeff Mullin did the next best thing, taking a class that allowed him to officiate grade school football games.

Twenty-five years later, Mullin is still blowing whistles, tossing bean bags and making out-of-bounds calls.

Just like thousands of others, recognized today during National Officials Day, Mullin wasn't satisfied to watch the action from a nice, comfy seat 10 rows up.

I enjoyed it right from the beginning, Mullin says. It was the best way to be involved without actually being a participant.

The 42-year-old insulation salesman is past president of the Rogue Valley Football Officials Association and has served on the local basketball association board as well.

Back in his high school days, the kids looked bigger than life.

If you weren't 6-foot and 190 pounds, you were a piece of dust out there, Mullin recalls. I never thought I was quite big enough.

He played basketball for the old Mid-High sophomore JV team, but didn't return to the floor until the winter after he graduated from high school. He joined the football association the following season.

No matter the sport, there are several rule books officials devour. But any official will tell you it takes more than the letter of the law to run a smooth game.

When I first started they were always talking about advantage-disadvantage, Mullin says. I've always tried to keep the game as fair as I could.

Like it or not, weather is a factor in football.

You try not to make that an issue in your mind, Mullin says.

But when hail the size of golf balls started bouncing off his head a few years back, Mullin knew it was time to get out of the cold.

In days past, when RVFOA crews called games in Klamath Falls, Mullin remembers working with referee Leo Noahr.

With Leo, you didn't worry about the weather. You worked without long sleeves. The wind was blowing across the lake and it felt like it was 30 degrees below (zero).

Football, he says, is more his style than basketball, where packed houses can push the intensity level to the stratosphere.

You're a lot closer to fans and coaches, Mullin says. Things happen so much quicker and you have to make quicker decisions. All those things compounded makes it that much more intense.

Nonetheless, he and thousands like him continue putting on the stripes time and again.

GRID OFFICIALS RESIGN: Three Douglas County football officials resigned after an ejection that would have resulted in the one-game suspension of a Roseburg player was overturned.

The officials quit after association commissioner Butch Freeman decided that Roseburg fullback Paul Bodenhamer's ejection in an Oct. 9 game against Klamath Union was unwarranted.

The Roseburg News-Review reported umpire Noel Groshong and back judge Dean Jones, who worked the Roseburg-Klamath game, submitted their resignations to association president Ron Gausnell. A third official, Mike Stansbury, resigned in support.

Bodenhamer was involved in a fracas with a KU player, who was not ejected, and ejected for throwing one or more punches. He was reinstated in time to play in Roseburg's 35-21 loss at Ashland the following week.

Freeman made his decision after reviewing film and talking to the parties involved.

In a letter to the OSAA, Freeman wrote: After reviewing the film with (Gausnell), we met with the association board of directors and reviewed the situation and came up with the conclusion that there was a possibility that punches were thrown but it was inconclusive.

We believe the unsporstmanlike conduct should have been assessed to both players and no ejection should have taken place.

The Oregon School Activities Association doesn't use film in reviewing incidents. Angles and obstructions present more questions than answers, according to OSAA assistant executive director Tom Welter.

You see how inconclusive NFL replays can be with 20 cameras, Welter told the Mail Tribune during the appeal process. How could we get a definitive answer from one camera?

Local association commissioners have the latitude to look at film and ask a lot of questions. In this case, Gausnell said Freeman followed the association's bylaws, which may undergo a change because of officials' reactions.

Stansbury was the lone official to go on the record with the News-Review and took some personal pot shots at Roseburg coach Thurman Bell. The flap reached such proportions that Gausnell went on radio station KQEN (which carries Roseburg football games) to defend the association's action.

Welter noted two previous reversals on ejections this season.

During the first week of the season, one official said he ejected a player because he was `tired and just wanted to get out of there.' He said he made the wrong call.

The very fact that a player can miss a contest -- for fighting, contact with officials or what have you -- should be a restraint. But emotions boil over quickly in a collision sport such as football.

Officials generally know the difference between an end-of-the-play shove and something malicious.

If they're willing to make the call on the field, they need support back in the meeting room.

(Greg Stiles is a Mail Tribune sports writer. He can be reached at 776-4483.)