By Gaige Winchester
What do you do when you have an unwavering love for a certain game, but you don’t have the physical stature to be a standout at that game? Stay involved.
Being brought up in the state of Indiana, one thing is inevitable: Hoosier hysteria or a love of basketball nearly unparalleled by anything else. This was no different for Nick Terry.
Terry, a 1996 Delta High School graduate, has never played organized, competitive basketball.
He was a wrestler in high school, but he wanted to be involved with his other love. A great way to do that while getting paid is refereeing. Terry, now an NCAA Division 1 Power Five official, started refereeing games for elementary kids while still in high school.
He woke up on Saturday mornings to officiate eight games as well as four games on Tuesday nights, making $20 per game. This is where he fell in love with being a referee.
As soon as he graduated high school, Terry decided to get his Indiana High School Athletic Association certification as a referee. He started out officiating middle school games, then worked his first high school game at age 23.
He refereed high school basketball for 12 years. He then was hired to officiate National Collegiate Athletic Association games at the Division III and Division II levels, before eventually doing some mid-major Division I officiating.
This season Terry will be officiating for the Big Ten Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference , two of the Power Five conferences in NCAA Division I athletics. The Big Ten accounted for nine selections in the 2022 NBA draft, having the most of any conference in the NCAA, with the ACC being right behind them with seven.
Refereeing this level of basketball takes many different traits and skills, such as communication, and great attention to detail, but Terry is qualified. He’s officiated many lower level NCAA Division I games, and has been an official in the Division II and III national tournaments.
“Being a good play caller and a great communicator will allow you to move up the ranks in collegiate officiating,” Terry said.
Terry said the biggest challenge to officiating these high level contests is the speed of the game as the players are all bigger and faster than in lower divisions.
According to Terry, there’s absolutely no comparison between even the best Division II and III games and a Power Five conference game. He said when he goes back to watch some of those Division II and Division III games, it’s as if they’re playing in slow motion.
Standing at 5 feet 5 inches, Terry said he’s “definitely the shortest guy in Division I (officiating),” but he said the way you carry yourself matters more than anything.
“Gaining coaches’ respect is hard for all officials, and you do it immediately when you’re at the level we’re at,” Terry said. “Statistically we are 94 percent correct or higher every game. Coaches know this and for the most part treat us accordingly.”
Another challenge would be seeing his family during the season. He can be on the road up to 20 days per month during the season. His family doesn’t attend many games as it’s hard for them to sit among the crowd with fans saying terrible things about officials.
Traveling all over the Midwest and Eastern seaboard can become expensive when time is spent more on the road than at home, but Terry said the compensation much outweighs the travel expenses of officiating. Officials at this level make anywhere from $2,000-$3,000 per game.
Being able to change and adapt is another huge part of Terry’s success. He said in a season, the most he might officiate with the same crew would be two or three times. All the officials are assigned games through a coordinator but in the entirety of the Big East staff, there are only 46 officials.
Terry said that although the energy in the arenas is crazy, he only hears it during timeouts.
“The game is so fast, you can’t afford to lose focus,” he said.
Terry has always been and will always be a “sports junkie” so he will definitely stay involved in the wide world of all sports. With another hoops season underway Terry is experiencing the sport in a way most fans will never get to. His first power five game this season will be Nov. 19 at Butler University when the Butler Bulldogs take on the Citadel Bulldogs.