Getting fans to say positive things about the officiating in the midst of a basketball game can at times seem like one of life’s most arduous tasks.
College basketball lost two officials earlier this week, as longtime Big East referees Bob Donato and Tim Higgins have decided to retire according to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard.
The two combined to work 12 Final Fours, with Higgins being selected for ten of them.
“I still love to do it,” Higgins told The Record during last season, choosing to answer questions for the story while in his car – where he spends so much time and where he gets much of his work done.
“It’s like when the fire bell goes off – you go. It’s like the horse that’s got to run. It’s hard to imagine not doing it.”
Higgins was also a part of one of the most bizarre moments in the history of the Big East Championship back in 2011, when St. John’s escaped with a win despite Justin Brownlee both traveling and stepping out of bounds before time expired.
Higgins in particular has been a lightning rod of sorts within the Big East, and to say that he isn’t the most popular man in central New York would likely be an understatement.
(Just look at some of the comments in the Post-Standard piece linked above.)
But an official doesn’t work for as long as Higgins did without being good at his job, and that goes for Donato as well.
Having worked Big East games (in addition to other leagues) since the conference’s inception in 1979, maybe Higgins’ retirement is a symbolic move for a league undergoing significant change.
Photo credit: Dennis Nett/Syracuse Post-Standard