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Refereeing the Referees of the Atlantic Coast Conference

When basketball teams from Duke, Georgia Tech, and the other 13 members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play, most eyes are on the players and the scoreboard. Some avid fans also watch the referees, sometimes challenging their calls. Few would have noticed one important observer, who retired after the 2015–2016 season: John Clougherty, supervisor of the ACC’s officials. Clougherty oversaw the expansion of the men’s basketball officiating staff, the management of all evaluations and ratings, and numerous training and educational opportunities to promote the recruitment and development of ACC Men’s Basketball Officials.

To carry out his job, Clougherty attended dozens of games every season and watched the rest on DVDs at home. At the ready was a legal pad, on which he took notes about the number of fouls called on each team and data about particular calls he needed to discuss later with individual officials. When they made a mistake, Clougherty let them know right after the game. In fact, quick feedback was one of this supervisor’s priorities. Right after he became supervisor, he began requiring that each game be recorded on DVD and that a disc be delivered to the officials minutes after the end of the game. If there was a disagreement about a call and Clougherty was at the game, he might have reviewed the recording immediately with the officials. The information also helped him communicate effectively with team coaches.

Clougherty used his DVD recordings as an important resource for teaching the referees. Occasionally, they also provided a record in support of disciplinary actions. For example, during a game between Florida State and Duke, a crew of officials improperly called a technical foul on a Florida State basketball player and then failed to review the play on the courtside monitor. Clougherty responded with a suspension.

In addition to training and discipline, Clougherty was also responsible for hiring. He brought several new officials to ACC games. For his hiring expertise, he drew on his extensive experience: “After 30 years [as a college referee], I think I have a pretty good eye for talent.” In fact, he had plenty of firsthand experience. During those 30 years of officiating, Clougherty worked at a dozen Final Four games and four national title games. He received the James Naismith Official of the Year and the NIT Officials awards, and was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

  1. Which supervisory skills would be most important to you in this situation and why?
  2. What types of responsibilities does he undertake?
  3. How important do you think Clougherty’s experience as a referee was in preparing him to be a supervisor? Other than that work experience, what experiences and qualities do you think would be important for someone to succeed in Clougherty’s job? Do those experiences and qualities apply to most supervisory jobs?
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