WINGATE, N.C. (AP) -The football team at tiny Wingate University is off to its best start ever, but one important person has been missing from the Bulldogs' cheering section: the school's president.
No, Jerry McGee isn't one of those college administrators who clashes with the athletic department - in fact, he spends most of his Saturdays at football games.
But instead of hobnobbing with the boosters or alumni during Wingate's 7-0 start, he's at a stadium hundreds of miles away, throwing penalty flags as the field judge in an Atlantic Coast Conference officiating crew.
``Four thousand people at home games - where's the president? Oh, he's at Boston College,'' said the 63-year-old McGee.
But not for much longer. The nation's only college president doubling as a football official is hanging up his whistle at the year's end, after 36 years in stripes. By that time he'll have called more than 400 games.
``You need an outlet in this job,'' McGee said. ``Some people fish. Some people play golf. I referee football games.''
and spending weekends keeping order on the playing field might seem like a conflict of interest just waiting to happen, but he insists there are safeguards to prevent that.
Because Wingate is in Division II, McGee can't officiate games at that level - though nothing prevents him from working roughly a dozen major-college games each year. He spends most fall weekends on the road, delegating small tasks and keeping himself available if emergencies pop up.
``My regular job is pretty strenuous, but basically from Friday night at 6 o'clock until the game's over, I get to shut this down and just concentrate on football,'' McGee said. ``I find that's pretty healthy, to shut down all the problems you're dealing with during the week ... and I always tell them here that if they want to fax me anything to the hotel. ... Unless something really catastrophic happens, I don't need to hear from anybody here. You're officiating. Your focus has to be so exact. Once I get there, I don't want to be bothered unless it's something really important.''
Wingate's board of trustees has supported McGee's dueling careers ever since 1992, when he came to the school - a Baptist university with an enrollment of about 2,000 located an hour's drive southeast of downtown Charlotte - from Furman, where he was a vice president charged mainly with development and fundraising.
sident. ... When I was talking about the job here, I said, 'I officiate football. I would like to continue to do that, but if it becomes an issue at Wingate, obviously, I'll quit,''' McGee said. ``They said, 'By all means, go ahead and do it, and we'll see how it works out.'
``Once we started getting that publicity, they said, 'Maybe you ought to keep doing that a little while longer.'''
He has performed well enough on the field to work every major bowl game at least once - including the Ohio State-Arizona State Rose Bowl after the 1996 season, the Colorado-Notre Dame Orange Bowl in 1990 and last season's Cotton Bowl. He'll call game No. 400 on Oct. 25 - though officials' specific game assignments generally are not announced to the public ahead of time.
Doug Rhoads, who was on a crew with McGee in the 1980s and now works as the ACC's coordinator of officiating, praised him as a ``mature, relaxed, stable force on the field.
``I've never seen him come unglued,'' Rhoads said. ``He's a management kind of guy, but also a people kind of guy.''
And while coaches and officials always seem to have a tense relationship, Wake Forest's Jim Grobe feels at ease when McGee is working his games.
because I like guys that are calm and patient and take their time before they put a flag on the ground. Some of the younger guys, the flag's on fire as it's flying through the air.
``I like the old guys that are kind of looking at things - they're looking and looking, and finally they just go, 'I can't believe he just did that,' and down (the flag) goes. I always like to see guys with gray hair out there calling the game. Everybody says they don't move as well. I don't care how they move. Their judgment is usually pretty good.''
Of course, no amount of sound judgment will stop the wise guys from needling McGee about his two professions.
Once, while calling a game at the Carrier Dome he ran into Syracuse President Kenneth ``Buzz'' Shaw, who quipped: ``Dear God, man, do you not get enough abuse Monday through Friday that you have to come all the way to Syracuse and let us abuse you on Saturday?''
M ... I say I'm a university president,'' McGee said. ``There's never an 'Oh, is that right?' It's 'Really?' because I don't think they believe me.
``It's kind of a natural assumption that (the officials) all slept under a bridge the night before, or that we're stupid or something,'' he added. ``We just happen to have an unusual pastime.''
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