Connect with us


Earning The Call: NJ Native, Joe Vaszily, Talks NCAA Officiating




Being a referee in basketball is hard work. You run up and down the court in packed gymnasiums with fans, coaches and players yelling, you control the game, you make the calls and most of the time according to fans, you are wrong.

But truth be told, being an official can lead to an endless amount of opportunities, friendships and a lifelong list of memories.

Joe Vaszily, a Westfield, New Jersey resident has been officiating women’s basketball for 21 years. He has been on the court for everything from college intramural to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Vaszily, who is 42, grew up in Staten Island and played intramural and recreation basketball in his youth and while in high school. Following high school graduation, Vaszily attended the University of Scranton and although he did not play ball there, Scranton is where his successful refereeing career would begin.

“I started as a senior in college,” Vaszily said to me. “I was looking for jobs and work on campus and did some intramural games.”

After graduating in 1995, Vaszily moved back to Staten Island where there was a strong Catholic Youth Organization basketball program. He continued his refereeing with the CYO and was able to meet some good mentors.

Joe Vaszily

Joe Vaszily

“I was really fortunate to meet some good people who mentored me,” Vaszily said.

Vaszily was moved in the direction of women’s basketball after refereeing girls high school games in Staten Island.

“In New York where I grew up, girls high school basketball played under NCAA rules,” Vaszily explained. “I immediately got pushed in the direction to referee girls high school basketball.”

After becoming familiar with the NCAA women’s basketball rules while doing high school, Vaszily went to a couple of camps and clinics where officials are evaluated and trained by college level officials. Eventually, he transformed into a college basketball referee.

“Learning the NCAA rules really transitioned nicely for me,” Vaszily said. “I really stuck basically with girls basketball all the way.”

At the time, women’s basketball had plenty of opportunity for advancement, which was appealing to Vaszily and after a successful start, he took advantage of multiple opportunities.

“I was very fortunate to get some opportunities at a young age,” said Vaszily. “Its just like working your way up the ladder at any other profession that you do. You have to be resilient when you have tough nights and bad games and you have to bounce back.”

Included in Vaszily’s opportunities were two Final Four appearances in 2013 in New Orleans and 2014 Nashville. As for how he was chosen to be a referee at the NCAA tournament, he said people are chosen based on the body of work they’ve produced during the regular season. Then they are recommended by the conference in which they work. Finally, a committee in Indianapolis, Ind. selects the officials.

“It’s the pinnacle of our profession,” Vaszily said. “Just like how athletes want to get to the Final Four to play, its the same for referees.”

There are 10 referees selected for the Final Four. Nine of them work the floor while the other is an alternate who sits for both the semi-finals and the championship.

Vaszily reflected on what the process to the Final Four was like for him:

“Once making the NCAA tournament as an official, advancing to the Final Four was an awesome feeling,” he said. “When you get that phone call for your first invitation its just an awesome feeling.”

Vaszily was an on-floor official for the 2014 semi-finals matchup between No. 2 Stanford and No. 1 Connecticut in front of 17,548 in attendance.

When asked about what the best part is, Vaszily did not hesitate to answer.

“The game itself. The excitement of being in a big arena, the challenge of making decisions on a split second basis and being part of the game,” Vaszily explained.

Being an official is obviously filled with pressure, just as playing is. Vaszily commented on the pressure of a referee.

“There is definitely pressure,” Vazsily said. “We just have to channel it the right way and give our best efforts night in and night out for the student-athlete.”

Vaszily also elaborated on some of his favorite moments as a referee, including trips up to Army and Navy.

“To be in an arena where these student-athletes are going to go serve their country,” Vaszily explained. “You’re humbled and honored”

Another moment that stands out to Vaszily was being on the floor as an official in the 2014 Women’s Final Four in Nashville.

Vaszily also touched on his experience refereeing the UConn vs Notre Dame game in 2013.

“It was the last day of the regular season,” Vaszily reminisced. “UConn had two losses and Notre Dame had one, they were playing for the regular season BIG EAST Championship. It was a triple overtime game at South Bend and it was an unbelievable experience.”

Vaszily said he referees between 80 and 90 games during the season which starts in early November. He manages to do that while working full time as a vice president of the Fixed Income Sales/Trading Group with Goldman Sachs and Company in New York City.

Being a referee is not easy, but Vaszily has proven that the a common fraise “hard work pays off” applies to not just athletes, but referees as well.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in College