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'That Ref'

As the head basketball official, Adam Beilman is immersed in SU's intramural sports scene and has seen just about everything on the court.

Before Adam Beilman officiated his first intramural sports game at Syracuse University, a supervisor gave him a word of warning. Beware, he said. People will recognize you. You are a walking bull’s eye on campus.

“I didn’t really believe him,” laughed Beilman, a junior at SU. “How important is intramurals, really? That’s what I thought.” 

Photo: Tyler Dunne
As an official and a player, Adam Beilman is thrust in the middle of the SU intramural scene.

At least, that's what he thought until one night at a party in his friend’s basement. It was dark and crowded — the type of environment that blurs students into anonymity. Beilman was minding his own business when he was suddenly thrown against a wall.  

The push came from an intramural football player that Beilman recently called for roughing the passer. 

“I’ve reffed dozens of flag football games,” Beilman said. “I don’t know nor could I care less if I called this kid for roughing the passer. But he was not happy about it. I’ve seen him at least three times on campus since then and he has called me out on it every time. 

“People know me as ‘That ref,’ who called ‘whatever,” he said. 

For Beilman, the beat goes on. An official in flag football, floor hockey, basketball, outdoor soccer, indoor soccer and dodgeball, Beilman has developed an army of enemies. He is at the eye of the intramural storm. And, he said, students never remember the calls that won them games, only the ones that that enraged them.

Beilman is fine with that. Despite the continuous abuse from his peers and the on-the-spot pressure of the job, there are benefits. 

First and foremost, power.

“Absolutely. There’s nothing like being able to call a foul on a grad student who I know is an influential part of the campus community,” Beilman said. “Sometimes faculty members, sometimes professors. To be able to call a foul on them and tell them what they did wrong, take their sass and throw it right back at them is awesome.” 

Still, games can get ugly.  

As a ref, Beilman must manage inflated egos and nightly rage. Tempers often flare. As a player and an official, Beilman sees it all. One game, a player on his own team was called for travelling when he was tripped. In retaliation, the player picked up the basketball and chucked it at another official’s head from 10 feet away. Point blank.  

The player was promptly given a lifetime ban from intramural sports. Not that he was complaining. The punishment could have been much, much worse. 

“He was happy that it was not taken to a higher level with judicial affairs and whatnot,” Beilman said. “He was happy to get the Pete Rose treatment.” 

Compared to one floor hockey game last November, that incident was nothing. Anger was released in the form of a heap of punches. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, players erupted in an all-out melee.

“A bench-clearing, glove-throwing brawl,” Beilman called it.  

Again, the officials showed mercy. Beilman has the power to report such chaos to judicial affairs where stiffer punishments are levied. Instead, they kept this incident internal.  

Intramural officials are paid, though Beilman declined to specify how much. No way could they put up with such nonsense for free, he said. And through it all, he has learned how difficult the job truly is. Making decisions on the spot isn’t easy. Beilman admits he must occasionally gauge players’ reactions to plays before making a call.

As an avid Buffalo sports fan, Beilman has been the victim of horrifying officiating since birth. Pick your migraine. From Brett Hull’s foot in the crease on a Stanley Cup-clinching goal against the Sabres to Frank Wycheck’s controversial lateral in the Music City Miracle against the Bills in the 1999 NFL wild card game, referees have haunted Beilman’s sports life.

But now, he sympathizes with officials. Sort of. 

“1999 was still a forward lateral in my mind,” Beilman said. “That aside, though, you get a whole different perspective. You realize there is a lot of stuff you didn’t know. Who in their right mind has to know at which point does the ball have to cross the line of scrimmage in football for it to be an illegal forward pass? I do, but I guarantee that 99 percent of people that watch football don’t.  

“There are a lot of things you learn to appreciate after you’ve done this for a while.” 

So he’ll put up with the daily ribbing at SU. He isn’t afraid of being confronted again. If nothing else, this job has given him a flair for sarcasm and thick skin.

“I’m not fearing for my life,” Beilman said before pausing for a second. “But you get tested from time to time.”

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