Mrs. Fye becomes first woman to ref District 1A state championship game


Paul Burdick

Sarah Fye in action at the championship game.

Abby Ryan , Staff Writer

Sarah Fye, a chemistry teacher at our school, became the first women to officiate a District 1A Boys PIAA State Basketball Championship on March 24, making history. Bishop Canevin of Pittsburgh, netting 64 points, won the championship over St. John Neumann Regional Academy of Williamsport, who only netted 47 points. Mrs. Fye shared her feelings about the game.

Q: What inspired you to start officiating basketball games? 

Mrs. Fye: “I chose to become a basketball official because I have a strong passion for sports. At the time I started officiating basketball, I was the softball coach at Tussey Mountain High School. I was approached to take the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) basketball certification exam that same year to officiate for the PIAA. After passing my test, I began officiating junior high basketball games. I worked junior high and junior varsity games during my first year while obtaining one varsity contest. From that first game, I instantly fell in love with all aspects of the game. I enjoy knowing the rules and being able to execute decisions immediately as soon as a play happens. Every game is different: different players’ abilities, different coaching styles, and different gymnasium atmospheres. I adore being a crucial participant in basketball games. I look forward to upholding the integrity of the game while being held to a high standard by the stakeholders. Overall, I relish the mental challenges while exhibiting confidence and staying in pristine physical condition.”

Q: Would you rather officiate regular season games or championship games? 

Mrs. Fye: “It is such an honor to be selected to officiate basketball games at the highest level; whether these games are state championships, district championships, or conference championships, I enjoy and have a passion for officiating. I thrive and enjoy pressure situations to be able to have opportunities to officiate these types of games. However, every game is important to officials, coaches, and players and I am grateful to be assigned any game.”

Q: Why did you decide to start officiating higher level games?

Mrs. Fye: “After I worked my first state PIAA girls’ basketball state championship, I wanted to be able to challenge myself to officiate higher level games at the collegiate level. Not only did I officiate women’s college basketball at the Division III level, I was hired to officiate Division II basketball as well. In addition to officiating women’s college basketball games, I added more varsity boys’ basketball games into my schedule, which included the biggest classifications in the state (5A and 6A).”

Q: What differences did you notice when officiating this state championship game compared to other games you have refereed? 

Mrs. Fye: “The officials still call the game the same in any level. This particular game was similar to all the other games I have officiated in the past, just on a bigger stage. The main difference for this game was that the stakes were higher for the teams. The team that won earned a gold medal, while the team that lost received a silver medal.”

Q: What are your feelings about being the first women to officiate a D5 title game and a PIAA boys state championship? 

Mrs. Fye: “I am humbled, grateful, blessed, and excited by the opportunity the PIAA gave me to be the first female in the state of Pennsylvania to officiate a high school PIAA boys’ championship game. I am thankful and appreciative that I have been given the opportunity to officiate these title games based on my evaluations from coaches, athletic directors, and evaluators. It was an honor this season to be assigned a District V boys championship game and a PIAA boys state final as the first female official in Pennsylvania. I immensely enjoyed these opportunities and never take them for granted.”

Q: How long have you been officiating?

Mrs. Fye: “I have been an actively registered Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) basketball official for fourteen (14) years. Not only do I officiate high school boys and girls’ basketball, but also employed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to officiate women’s college basketball.  I have been officiating women’s college basketball for the past six (6) seasons.”

Q: “What was your favorite part about officiating the state championship game? 

Mrs. Fye: “According to Merriam – Webster Dictionary, a referee is “an official who watches a game or match closely to ensure that the rules are adhered to and (in some sports) to arbitrate on matters arising from the play.”  This definition of a referee is the epitome of why I enjoy officiating basketball.  As a referee, you must have accuracy with play calls and adjudicate the rules in a high-pressure environment. Officiating the highest level of high school basketball on the biggest stage (Giant Center – Hershey, PA) is one of the most significant accolades an official can receive. This type of high-pressure environment at the Giant Center is exhilarating and exciting because of the magnitude of a state championship basketball game.  I am a highly competitive person, so applying this characteristic in officiating is one of the more enjoyable experiences I have while refereeing.  I thoroughly enjoyed the fast pace of the game, the quality and athleticism of the players, and the memorable experience I shared with my officiating partners.”