MCCC Prof. Bob Pugh Receives Award for
Service to High School and College Basketball


MCCC Professor Bob Pugh has been selected as the winner of this year's Bob Kanaby Award from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the sport of basketball. NJSIAA Executive Director Steven Timko and Bollinger Insurance representative John Spiotta presented Pugh with a trophy before a crowd of approximately 9,000 fans at a halftime ceremony of the 2007 boys state championship game on March 19 at Continental Airlines Arena. The ceremony and an interview with Pugh were aired live on CN 8 - the Comcast Network.

Prof. Bob Pugh with his trophy from the NJSIAA.

Pugh has been a faculty member at Mercer County Community College since 1972. He is a professor in the college's Division of Science and Health Professions and coordinator for Health and Fitness, and has served as Faculty Association president for the past six years. Since 2001, he has been a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations' Rules Committee, attending an annual meeting with rules interpreters from across the country at the association's headquarters in Indianapolis prior to the start of each basketball season. After returning home, Pugh conducts sessions for up to 2,000 high school referees at eight sites around New Jersey to update them on any new or revised regulations. And, according to NJSIAA's Timko, "Bob is our ultimate resource when questions come up during the season about how to interpret a particular rule or change in the regulations." Timko notes that Pugh is not one to seek personal recognition. "It's never about Bob Pugh; it's about the kids and it's about the sport." He adds that Pugh is a stellar representative of Mercer County Community College.

Said Pugh, "I am surprised, pleased and humbled to be the recipient of this award. I am truly honored." He notes that being a rules interpreter has expanded his world far beyond the walls of the college. "I teach at Mercer, but I also teach out there around the state."

Pugh has been involved in high school and college basketball officiating in numerous other ways as well. Since 2003, he has served as supervisor of the NJCAA Region 19 men's and women's basketball officials, and since 1996, he has been supervisor of officials for the Eastern College Athletic Conference, managing all officials for both two- and four-year schools in the metropolitan New Jersey region.

For 22 years, Pugh has been director of the Central Jersey Officials Basketball Camp, a clinic for male and female referees seeking to make the transition from high school to college officiating. His own experience as a college and high school referee dates to 1976, including several state high school tournament games and NCAA tournament games. From 1972-76, Pugh was on the coaching staff for MCCC men's basketball. During two of those seasons, the Mercer Vikings won the national basketball championship.

One of Pugh's challenges as a supervisor is managing the many personalities of his officials. "There are refs from all walks of life, most of whom are former players themselves, with very different occupations - lawyers, police officers, firemen, teachers. They are used to being in charge. But when they put on the stripes, they've got to produce out there. They are just another zebra - that what we call them." Some have better skills than others, he notes. "The refs with better skills rise to the top. Either they have it or don't have it. They've got to be able to manage the game effectively and to communicate well with coaches, players and fans."

Often at the center of a rules controversy, Pugh goes by the book. "In any ruling, you are going to be 50% right and 50% wrong, depending on the viewpoint of those involved. But I go to the rule book; whatever the rules say, that's how I'm going to adjudicate." One of the latest controversial issues is the "Mercy Rule," which in the spirit of sportsmanship, asks teams to quit pressing when they are far ahead, and to let the clock continue to run.

Basketball has been a part of Pugh's life since the days he played for his high school team in West Virginia. "I've played all the way through," he said. "I love the game." Despite the hectic times during the season when, due to a referee getting injured or a ref having a family emergency, last-minute reassignments are necessary, Pugh wouldn't trade any of it. "There would be an unbelievable void in my life without basketball."

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