Why John Higgins, Basketball Officials Hustle From Game to Game

Why John Higgins, Basketball Officials Hustle From Game to Game

For Big 12 basketball fans, referee John Higgins is a must, whether fans love him or hate him. He seems to call every Big 12 game they watch.

This week, for example, Higgins called the league’s two Top 25 games — Baylor at Texas on Monday and Kansas State at Kansas on Tuesday.

If fans watched Monday’s game, they got a slice of Higgins’ travel schedule last week. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I understand that Higgins works this kind of schedule because at the end of the day, coaches want the best referees to work their games. Fans may disagree, but he’s highly regarded across the board.

And yet: this sked trip is not conducive to optimal results. It shouldn’t happen. pic.twitter.com/QEXD4uZrH0

— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) January 31, 2023

Prior to the Texas-Baylor game, Higgins had the day off Friday. The Stanford-Purdue trip drew extra attention as the Cardinal game was Saturday evening and the Purdue game was Sunday afternoon, which didn’t leave much time for Higgins to jostle from the West Coast to the Midwest. .

So why on earth would Higgins travel so much just to umpire college basketball? I mean he must like it, right?

He might also like the salary, too.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander picked up the conversation and provided a model for what basketball officials get paid at the Higgins level. Norlander points out that whatever your opinion of Higgins, he is well regarded among the game’s coaches, which is part of why he referees so many games.

But, again, the money.

There is a pay scale, according to Norlander, for the Power 6 conferences (i.e. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC). That’s an average of $3,700 per game, whether it’s a conference game or not. Civil servants must cover their expenses. The pay rate is the same for league tournaments, per Norlander.

In the NCAA tournament, officials receive $2,500 for first- and second-round games, $3,000 for regionals, and $3,500 for the Final Four. Once at March Madness, the NCAA pays for the officials’ expenses.

So Norlander did the math. An official like Higgins, who is well-regarded and wants to hustle from city to city, could officiate at least 90 games a season. Assuming an official like Higgins works through the Final Four, that could mean $330,000 before taxes and expenses.

Sometimes explaining something is as simple as following the money.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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