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RVBOA commish Loy calling it a career

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Loy, who will be 75 in the spring, is retiring following 45 years in local prep basketball

Vern Loy can remember being involved in basketball officiating in one way or another for essentially his entire adult life.

No matter if it’s been on the court or assigning who goes where, almost the entirety of the last five decades has seen Loy involved in a whole lot of local basketball.

Come the end of this season, Loy will have a little more free time on his hands.

Loy, the longtime basketball referee and Rogue Valley Basketball Officials Association commissioner, is calling it a career at the conclusion of the current prep season. It is something that he’s debated for years, only to come back for a handful of one last go-rounds and return to the same post at the start of the new season.

But this time it’s for real.

And the soon-to-be 75-year-old Loy, who like every officials organization head in recent years has had to scramble to make sure all of his games are filled, will be recognized during a pregame ceremony at Friday night’s Southwest Conference boys basketball showdown between No. 6 South Medford and No. 10 North Medford at the Black Tornado’s gym.

He was also recognized during last Friday’s basketball doubleheader between Cascade Christian and St. Mary’s.

“I’m truly, truly getting tired of sitting on bleachers,” quipped Loy with a hearty laugh. “I’ll soon, in May, turn 75 and I thought that I really don’t need to be doing this at the age of 75. I was a teacher for 33 years and that was stressful, then 21 years as commissioner and that was really stressful, so I thought that it’s time for my wife and I to do something different during the winter.”

Loy will still very much be at basketball games in the future even if he’s not in the bleachers as much as he has been for the last two decades. It’s hard for a basketball lifer to suddenly go cold turkey and not find himself in a gym or two that he’s come to know so well over the course of the winter months in the Rogue Valley.

But after being in the game 45 years and dedicating so much time over that span to making sure things operate to the best of their ability, Loy is more than happy to hand things over to a new commissioner and spend more time with his wife, Linda.

He also found the total of 45 a rather fitting one based on some recent conversations he’s had with local athletic directors.

“I asked them to retrace back to 2001-02 when I started (as commissioner) and how many athletic directors I worked with,” recalled Loy. “It came out to be, unbelievably so, 45. So, it’s been a real treat meeting those people.”

Joe Mattos, an official for the last 14 years, will take over as RVBOA commissioner after a vote of the organization’s executive board was held in January. The goal, according to Loy, was to have the transition take place sooner, but he is already training Mattos in some of the daily tasks that come with his new post.

“He’s given us really good direction and wants to be a really good influence,” said RVBOA vice president Kent Stafford of Loy. “He’s given us really good direction and he wants us to be the best.”

Loy said he wanted to bring in his replacement while the 2021-22 season was still going so that he could help train whomever it was going to be before he retired.

“I never got any training when I got into this and it was just brutal,” said Loy. “I didn’t want the new person to come in just cold. I really do believe I will be able to get him up to speed for next October.”

An Albany native who initially moved to the Rogue Valley to attend Southern Oregon College in the late 1960s, Loy spent 24 years as a basketball official before becoming commissioner.

Like a lot of his fellow officials, it was a way for him to stay in the game.

And as it turned out for Loy, who also taught in the Central Point School District for 18 years and 13 more in Medford, the impact he made was quite a noticeable one for those he worked with.

“He’s just such a great guy,” said Stafford. “He’s got his little Vern-isms when he holds meetings and stuff like that, but he just really has enjoyed the association and he’s been a great leader to all of us.”

One of the biggest parts of the job that Loy has enjoyed is the camaraderie between himself and the officials he works with.

That’s something that will continue even with him heading into retirement.

“I will certainly go out with the guys and listen to their stories,” said Loy. “That’s the most fun because they’re the only ones who know that pressure, that anxiety. I won’t be a stranger to them and they’ve told me I won’t. They let me know.”

According to Stafford, one of Loy’s lasting legacies will be the annual Summer Swing golf tournament that he established, with its fundraising goal of providing money for middle school students to be able to play basketball, whether it’s through the need for equipment or other possible expenses.

Since its creation in 2013, the tournament has raised over $260,000, providing something that no other officials association around the state does, Loy said.

“That tournament is going to continue to thrive long after he retires,” said Stafford. “It just gives kids the opportunity to play basketball when they might otherwise not be able to afford it. I think that’s his biggest legacy.”

Loy also worked to promote smaller officials organizations as well.

He was a driving force in the Oregon Schools Activities Association (OSAA) starting annual recognition of officials in all prep sports across the state. Since it began in 2006, the RVBOA has been voted Association of the Year three times, they’ve had five Oregon officials of the year and a pair of officials recognized by the state’s coaches association.

“The RVBOA has really shown the smaller associations around the state that you can do things and you can do things well,” said Loy. “We’re all really proud of that, but I am especially so.”

It hasn’t all been easy — especially the last couple of years, Loy said.

The sheer number of officials — or a lack thereof these days — continues to be a major issue that all local associations are dealing with, especially RVBOA.

The recruiting efforts never stop for Loy, who is always on the lookout for potential new basketball officials whenever he heads out.

Through it all, Loy has done whatever he can to ensure that local athletes at the high school or youth levels don’t see their games get canceled.

It’s been Loy’s mission to make sure the games go on, with his line of “you don’t have the officials, you don’t have games” ringing all the more true as the numbers crunch has continued to worsen over the last few years.

“He’s led us through some lean times here during COVID,” said Stafford. “I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for not only our association but really for the community at large.”

In a few weeks’ time, the basketball season will be over and the next phase of Loy’s life will truly get going.

It’s one he’s been looking forward to even though it will mean less time in the bleachers.

Which, based on the last few decades, is something he’s going to be OK with.

“It’s been a real honor to help the community in any way I could,” said Loy. “I never once envisioned that I would be a varsity official, let alone become the commissioner, so all of it has been an honor and a real treat to meet all the people that I have.

“Overall, it’s just been a treat. I will miss it, but it’s time for me to go to pasture.”

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneVern Loy shakes hands with St. Mary’s athletic director Jamie Young at a basketball game between Cascade Christian and St Mary’s in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneVern Loy, front left, adjusts his mask observing a basketball game between Cascade Christian and St Mary’s in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneVern Loy, in orange, watches a basketball game between Cascade Christian and St Mary’s in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneVern Loy meets with officials before a basketball game between Cascade Christian and St Mary’s in Medford.