It's late afternoon on an early August Tuesday and Evon Burroughs is on patrol. The police scanner crackles to life in the background. The 40-year-old is in the Special Operations Unit for the Boston PD, where he's been an officer for 16 years. Burroughs works in tactical, meaning when there's a dangerous incident, his squad goes first.
Policing is Burroughs' life -- on the streets of Boston and the sidelines of college basketball. He's been a men's D-I official for 11 years, working the whistle in the Big East, the ACC, the A-10, Patriot League and Ivy League.
But Burroughs and more than 1,000 other officials at the D-I level -- not to mention thousands more across all of college sports -- sit in anxious limbo. As college football awaits its true scheduling fate to be decided in the coming weeks, college basketball is not far behind. A decision about 2020-21 is expected in September.
When we talk about the resumption of college athletics and all the uncomfortable, unavoidable entanglements therein, referees are mostly not acknowledged. But they're of course critical; the games are not legitimate without them. And though Burroughs has a lifelong occupation to fall back on, that's not the case for plenty of refs. Take Roger Ayers, who is universally regarded as the very best of the very best. His only job is being a college basketball official. The same is true of Randy McCall and Chris Rastatter, two veteran officials who live in Colorado and Arizona, respectively, and have been cautiously optimistic about working again in 2020.
Rastatter got into officiating in his late 20s when he called a men's rec league game on a lark after no one showed up. He made nine bucks. A little more than three years later he was in Pac-10. He's now 58 and his entire salary comes from officiating. Officials are not on multi-year contracts. They renew based on performance and review every summer.