Tuesday, December 05, 2000

Woman referee breaks barrier

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

LUDLOW — When she was a student at Walton-Verona High School, Susan Egan wasn't allowed to play football with the team, so a decade later she did the next best thing. She became a game official.

        Since then, Ms. Egan made history.

        When she officiated at the state eight-man championship game Nov. 17 between Eminence and Kentucky Country Day in Frankfort, Ms. Egan be came the first woman in the nation to wear the referee's white cap during a state championship football game.

        Ms. Egan, 48, who lives in Ludlow, is an account administrator at Bartlett & Co. in Cincinnati. She has been an official since 1980 and is the only woman in the Northern Kentucky Officials Association.

        “I look upon myself as someone who's actually living her dream — to participate in football,” Ms. Egan said.

        “I didn't realize I made history, for one thing. It was an honor to be chosen.”

        Julian Tackett, a Kentucky High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner, said the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis told him Ms. Egan was the first woman to officiate a state championship game.

        Paul McLaughlin, chairman of the publications committee of the National Federation Officials' Association, confirmed she was the first woman in the nation to officiate a state championship game.

        Only one other woman

        got close; Annalee McPhilomy, of Jacksonville, Fla. was a referee for the first two rounds in Florida's playoffs, he said.

        Beechwood High School football coach Mike Yeagle recently paid Ms. Egan a high compliment for a referee. After she handled the Sept. 29 game between the Tigers and Dayton High, he said he hardly noticed her.

        “She's very professional, she runs a very good program,” he said. “When you need some information, she provides it.”

        Ms. Egan, a 1970 graduate of Walton-Verona, said her interest in football started in grade school. On Saturdays she'd help her father make wine, lugging the bags of sugar and the bottles, to get out of having to clean her room.

        “And guess what's on Saturdays - college football,” she said.

        Like baseball, basketball and soccer officials, aspiring football referees start with grade school games and move into freshman and junior varsity contests. Officials also have to pass an annual rules test. (Ms. Egan scored 94 out of 100).

        A referee has three duties: administering penalties, handling the pre-game coin toss and watching for infractions in the backfield.

        Ms. Egan long ago developed the requisite thick skin of a referee. She says that, at first, some coaches were apprehensive about complaining about her calls because they were not comfortable with the idea of a woman as a ref.

        But she has taken her licks. She suffered a hyperextended knee refereeing in a junior varsity game at Dixie Heights.

        She refereed her first varsity high school game in 1990 between Owen County and Millersburg Military.

        “What I remember is it was a torrential downpour,” she said. “The mud would suck the shoes off your feet.”

        By contrast, at last month's game — which Eminence won 52-34 — was merely very cold.

        “I think we were in single digits with a nice wind. Other than that, it was enjoyable.”

        She gives the credit for that to her crew - Steve Cummings of Williamsburg, Mike Holt of Bardstown, Bart Horne of Paris and Tom Weber of Louisville.

        “They made my job easy,” she said.


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Susan Egan
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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