May 19, 2014 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterAfter refereeing more than 2,000 football and basketball games, and with even more on next year's schedule, Riverton's Pat Harris will join Roosevelt "Rosie" Brown from Casper and Keith Gemar from Gillette as the newest inductees to the Wyoming High School Activities Association and the Wyoming Sports Officials Association Hall of Fame.
The three officials will be recognized formally at an induction ceremony July 25 at the Parkway Plaza, in Casper.
The hall of fame "provides special recognition to individuals who have contributed greatly to the youth of Wyoming through their sports officiating," according to the WHSAA.
Harris has been officiating for 28 years, an official's career that began after he was graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in business management.
"I wanted to stay involved with the kids in sports. I knew with me not being in the school district and not being a coach, it was another way to stay involved in sports," Harris said.
Pat's brother Mike Harris, a longtime Riverton coach and sports official, encouraged Pat to begin sports officiating after Pat returned to Riverton after he completed his schooling.
"He got me started. I began officiating in the Riverton Junior Football League and then started reffing junior high and high school," Harris said.
Pat will join Mike as the only brothers who have been inducted into the WHSAA/WSO Hall of Fame, according to Trevor Wilson of the WHSAA.
Harris was a standout, four-sport athlete as a student at Riverton High School before he attended Treasure Valley Community College in Ontereo, Ore., where he played college football for two seasons prior to studying in Laramie.
"I enjoy officiating football more than basketball because I enjoyed the sport more when I was playing," Harris said.
Harris says officiating has become more competitive in recent years and that the WHSAA does a very good job in making officials better.
"You have to go to a mechanics camp every five years to stay certified, and they have a ranking system for each sport for you to get to postseason play. You get evaluated. Way back when, it was a good old boys thing. If you were officiating with the right people, you would get more opportunities."
Harris said that it may be easier to officiate at lower levels in high school rather than in the Class 3-A or 4-A leagues.
"I think that the higher level is tougher. Your kids are more athletic, stronger and faster. They are going to try and get away with more and you have to be more observant. The lower classes, I think they have more fun," Harris said.
Being a sports official carries some risk, as Harris has learned through the years.
"I have taken a spill or two, especially on the football field, and there have been a couple of times in basketball. You are right there next to the court. I've run into cheerleaders, spectators and kids, but I have been fortunate that I haven't hurt myself or someone else," Harris said.
Officiating state tournaments, both in football and basketball, is the atmosphere he enjoys the most.
"You get to know a lot of people. You develop a lot of friendships. When you go to those large venues, that is a lot of fun, seeing kids and past coaches or parents. You see a lot of people," Harris said.
The addition of a third official in basketball has extended his career and will keep him on the road, at least for a few more years -- though he hopes a weekend like he had several years ago with longtime partner Mitch Larson that had the crew in Afton on Thursday, Powell on Friday and Laramie on Saturday is something he won't have to experience again.
"At first it was very tough. If a third official hadn't been added, I would have been done with basketball three or four years ago. I really like it now," Harris said.
Harris is the chief financial officer for Community Entry Services. He and wife Mia live in Riverton.
"I really enjoy the relationships with kids and their parents and camaraderie with the other officials, whether it is a local crew or reffing in postseason with guys you reefed with for many years.
"Our football crew has been fairly consistent for the last 20 years. That is why I like football more. There are five of us, and we are traveling and reffing. They are a great group of guys," Harris said
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