Arthur Hardin, an official in the ACC for football and a well-respected high-school basketball referee, is starting to get that itch to wear his whistle again.
“I might go find a pickup basketball game and find my whistle to help them out,” Hardin joked.
Hardin, 63, who lives in Winston-Salem and is an academic success counselor at Winston-Salem State, has been working for the ACC for 12 years and has been a college referee for 25 years. Hardin worked as the head linesman in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
More than 78,000 fans watched inside Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as LSU rolled past Oklahoma 63-28. The college game was Hardin's last of the 2019 season, and what football season will look like in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic is anybody’s guess. Even playing without spectators has been discussed.
“It would be a lot like the closed scrimmages we do during the preseason,” Hardin said. “Coaches like to close things down for those and the officials get some work as well, so I think it would be a lot like that but it would just be a regular game.”
The lucrative deals between television networks and leagues are compelling reasons to play Division I games. Fans could still watch from home.
Hardin, however, said that the players and coaches as well as the officials would have to adjust if there were no fans.
“That’s going to be different if that comes to pass but the reaction noise that you hear after each play would be missing,” Hardin said. “But really, I think the players are so focused in trying to do their job it wouldn’t be that much of a difference, and I would say it’s the same for our crews.”
Hardin said he knows his responsibilities so well on the field that he's focused on the task.
“There are 22 players out there and the rest of our crew as well and we all have jobs to do, so I think that’s what would still be the priority because in the heat of the game it's still football,” Hardin said.
Whether the football season does begin at all, or is shortened or delayed, is something that Hardin has considered. But he and his fellow ACC officials are busy this offseason with meetings, webinars and discussions regarding whether the season will start on time.
“We actually started some online training sessions in late March and in early April we sat in on some national meetings and we’ve still got national exams that we are preparing to take this summer. ...
“We are working closely with (Dennis Hennigan, the ACC supervisor of officials) and we will be ready when we are called to work again,” Hardin said. “We’ll be prepared for whatever comes about this fall in regards to the pandemic.”
In the meantime Hardin will wait for his instructions as to where and when he’ll get to put on his striped shirt again in the multimillion-dollar Power Five football business. He stayed busy with his full-time job at WSSU through May and looks ahead to his university's future, too.
“As part of an academic institution, there’s a lot to consider at every level,” Hardin said. “There’s plenty to think about and changes are going to be made with what this thing has done all around the world. There’s going to have to be a lot of changes in terms of safety for everybody involved, so that’s the reality.”
As for digging up that whistle and looking for a pickup basketball game to officiate around Winston-Salem, he wouldn’t rule it out.
“I just might do it,” he said. “It would keep me sharp.”