Curé d’Ars parishioner who served on the biggest stage of college basketball

Verne Harris has an NCAA college basketball resume that competes with Mike Krzyzewski or Bob Knight.

Six national championships, nine Final Fours and too many conference championships to count.

“The first time I went to the Final Four, it was pretty cool, it was incredible,” Harris said. “I would be lying if I did not say I was a little nervous at first.”

But Harris has not been on college basketball’s biggest stage as a coach or player. Instead, he has been right in the middle of the action as an NCAA basketball referee.

“You can see when the players get more excited where there’s a big audience, or a big game, a rival game or something like that, that just always seems to be a little bit more energy in the crowd,” Harris said . “We also supply some of it, but we still want to do our job.”

It’s a job that Harris admits does not come with much praise or fanfare.

“We’re never popular,” Harris said with a laugh. “You’re out there (officers) and people are just sitting and yelling at you. Why would anyone want to do something like that? So I understand. But I’m just so used to it. It does not bother me.”

NCAA official Verne Harris, a parishioner at Cure d’Ars Catholic Church in Denver, speaks with Gonzaga coach Mark Few during an NCAA Tournament game in 2017. Courtesy: Verne Harris

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Harris, 59, is a Denver native and longtime parishioner of Cure d’Ars Catholic Church in Denver, where he attended elementary school as a child. He played a lot of sports while growing up, and after graduating from George Washington High School in Denver, he followed his older brother to Arizona State University for the weather and the university’s property program. It was during his time at ASU that a friend first invited him to reference some intramural basketball games.

“I said no, and he said, man, they pay $ 5 for a game, and the games can last no longer than an hour,” Harris recalled. “I’ve always been involved in athletics and sports, so it was a way to stay there and something to do and get some money next door.”

After college, Harris moved back to Denver to begin his real estate career, and he also began judging high school games. From there, he moved up to NCAA Division II level and then Division I when he was 26.

For the most recent NCAA tournament, Harris was on the field for Indiana vs. St. Mary’s in the first round, Gonzaga vs. Memphis in the second round, and St. Peter’s vs. North Carolina and Elite Eight.

Harris said he has loved his officer career, though there is not always much love for the judges.

“Once a coach said, ‘you know you missed the call down there,’ and I said, ‘well shoot, (the other coach) just told me I missed it down at the other end. If nothing else, I at least consistently. ‘”

NCAA official Verne Harris, a parishioner at Cure d’Ars Catholic Church in Denver who served during an NCAA tournament game in 2017. Courtesy: Verne Harris

Harris’ Catholic morals and values ​​form the basis for dealing with the constant criticism and negativity that is part of the civil service. The most important thing, according to Harris, is a lesson he learned from his father.

“Always treat people the way you want to be treated,” Harris said. “And I just think that if everyone did, I do not think there would be any other problems. I really do not.”

Harris says that when things get hotter on the pitch, he tries to lower the temperature and will encourage the coaches and players to just have a conversation with him. And if Harris makes a mistake and misses a call, he says it’s important not to make excuses.

“As officials, we just have to admit when we’re also wrong, you know we’re not always right,” Harris said.

But most of the time, Harris says he can be sure he was in the right position to make the right call, and therefore it just does not occur to him that players, coaches and fans are not always happy with the result.

“I do not want it to sound the wrong way, but you have a way of knowing those people do not know what they are talking about, so it does not bother me,” Harris said.

Harris has just finished his 34thth season as an NCAA Division 1 referee, and although he has no current plans to put the whistle on, he is extremely grateful for everything his officer career has given him, including travel to almost every state and even abroad.

“I’ve been able to go places and see things through functioning that I never would have been able to otherwise,” Harris said. “Being a cop made me a better person. I’m a more thoughtful person, I really think about what’s fair for everyone.”

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