Rich Weiler Retires After 60 Years As IHSA Official
On Nov. 30, 2010 one of the most decorated officials in collegiate and high school history announced his retirement from high school officiating to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA).
Rich Weiler was a basketball and football official, reaching certified status as an IHSA basketball referee, during a career that spanned more than 60 years. The Oak Lawn native got his start as an IHSA official in 1950 and went on to become one of the most respected officials in the country. Although he officiated sparingly at the high school level after becoming a mainstay in the collegiate game, Weiler annually renewed his IHSA officiating license, totaling 60 years of service in basketball.
“I really enjoyed officiating at the high school level. It was where I got my start and where I learned every day,” said Weiler. “I was really into the high school game and enjoyed the interaction with the athletes and the coaches. No matter what level I was officiating at, the game that day was always the most important to me.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Rich is the only collegiate official to ever work both a Rose Bowl football contest and an NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship over the course of a career. Rich was selected to officiate the Final Four on four separate occasions (1974, 1979, 1980, 1983), including the NCAA national championship game in 1980 when Louisville defeated UCLA. He also officiated the 1984 Rose Bowl, when UCLA defeated Illinois.
Weiler’s career has another interesting tie to UCLA, as he worked the Bruins’ men’s basketball games against Notre Dame on January 23, 1971 and January 19, 1974. UCLA would begin its NCAA-record 88-game winning streak seven days after losing to the Irish in 1971 and then have the streak ended with a loss in South Bend almost three years later.
“(Legendary UCLA coach) John Wooden once said told me that half of the people are going to love the calls I make and the other half are going to hate them,” added Weiler. “I was all business once that first whistle blew and took to other officials who had the same approach. I remember bringing along a young official who would write down everything I said, and that young man, (Edwardsville High School Superintendent and 12-time Final Four official) Ed Hightower, turned out to be a pretty good official.”
Weiler spent 24 years as a Big Ten referee and 15 as the coordinator of officials for the Mid-Continent Conference (now the Summit League).
“Rich Weiler is one of the most recognizable names and faces in the history of officiating,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “To have the IHSA linked to his legacy in some small way is a neat thing and to have him look fondly upon his time as an IHSA official makes us very proud. We wish him nothing but the best and thank him for all that he did for student-athletes in the high school and collegiate ranks during his time as an official.”