A retired physical education professor is honored for his contribution to his students, the college and sports.
Former Dodge City Community College rules and officiating students have been insulted, booed and heckled throughout the country thanks to their professor Eldon Becker who turned the course into a stepping stone during his 30-year tenure at the college.
"Thirty wonderful years," Becker corrected.
Students are already living in Becker Hall, the new dormitory named for the retired professor, but on Friday the school will tour the building and hold a ceremony in his honor.
During his three decades at the school, from 1969 to 1999, Becker taught every sport, from badminton to his first passion, basketball, and coached a fair number of the teams.
"I was a jock of all sports and a master of none," Becker said, mostly though, he reckons he is remembered for the expansive reach of his sports officiating program.
After Title IX passed in 1972, the law that required public educational institutions to offer women's sports, there was a great local demand for game officials for schools that now had to cover four teams per sport, Becker said. From the established officials, there was little interest in covering girls' and women's sports.
"I said, 'They're not very good, but they're better than nothing,'" Becker recalls telling school athletics directors needing game officials. In time, a system was developed to determine which students made good officials based on evaluations from local and visiting coaches. The best game officials got more work and made a healthy chunk of money doing it.
One student called 100 games one year, making about $2,000, which was solid money for the time, Becker said.
The client schools also found a low-friction relationship with the "Becker Boys," as one former student called the crew.
"Each school found how easy it was to send me a schedule at the beginning of the year," Becker said. "It was a 'just say yes' program."
In the last 23 years Becker was at the college, his officials called 10,453 basketball games, 1,260 football games and 329 volleyball matches.
The program peaked in the 1990s, Becker said, as the program averaged "well over" 500 junior varsity and junior high school basketball games and 50 junior varsity and junior high school football games per year.
The record occurred during the 1994-1995 school year with 707 basketball games officiated for 21 schools. In a single day, 32 college students were sent out to call basketball games.
It isn't always easy being the adult on the field. "One of my jobs was to translate 'You suck' into 'I love you,'" Becker joked.
"You have to be able to put up with a lot of badmouthing. People don't really love you. … There's a toughness you have to have as an official is because people on both sides think you're an idiot."
Virtues of any good game official is patience and the ability to get along with the coaches, Becker said, even when they put on high drama for the audience during the game only to be chummy afterward.
Good officials also need to learn to adjust to the excitement of a game while maintaining a calm demeanor, and be able to call a technical foul on a kid one day but talk to him the next day when you run into his family at the grocery store.
"That's a quality you can't teach," Becker said, though the officiating was "a good laboratory" to figure out who had the temperament to call games.
Some advice he gave first time game officials: "Don't blink" and "don't turn your back." Also, the easiest violations to miss are the ones that happen right under your nose.
A little bit of luck helped Becker's move to Dodge City from Hays High, his first job out of college. The football program had been canceled at DCCC, drawing ire from the community and the students, and opened up a job when the coach left the school.
A banner was hung in the student union: "Intramural bridge replaces football," Becker recalled, and the students float in the parade was decked in black with a game-dressed football player lying in a coffin.
Football was restored, and Becker began his career at the college with 18 credits left on his Master's Degree from Fort Hays State University. During the summers he worked as a brakeman for the railroad, making far more money than teaching physical education and running the intramural sports program.
During his Master's classes, "I showed my peer group my railroad check and they said, 'Is that from one month?' It was from two weeks. I showed them my teaching check and they asked, 'Is that from two weeks?' It was not."
But the pay never interested him as much as he loved teaching sports and mentoring young game officials. He credits his students with his name on the new dormitory and he credits them for his induction to the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2000, a lifetime achievement award with the Southern Plains Iroquois Activities Association and his induction to the DCCC Hall of Fame.
"It's an honor," he said. "It's unbelievable."