Retired Big Ten referee and IHSA official Rich Weiler passed away at age 84 on Sunday after a courageous battle with cancer. Visitation will take place at 9:45 a.m. until the time of the Memorial Mass at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Linus Church. Following is a reprisal of a story featured in Patch in December 2010, upon the occasion of Mr. Weiler's retirment from the IHSA.
A zebra has relinquished his stripes.
Rich Weiler, an Oak Lawn resident who worked as a basketball and football official for more than 60 years, announced his retirement from the Illinois High School Association ranks on Nov. 30.
"I really enjoyed officiating at the high school level," Weiler said in a news release issued by the IHSA. "It was where I got my start and where I learned every day. I was really into the high school game and enjoyed the interaction with the athletes and coaches.
"No matter what level I was coaching at, the game that day was always the most important to me."
Weiler started as an IHSA official in 1950. He went on to work in many other arenas.
According to the Chicago Tribune, he is the only collegiate official ever to work both a Rose Bowl football game and an NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship game. He was selected to officiate the Final Four on four separate occasions (1974, 1979, 1980, 1983). And he was on the floor when Louisville defeated UCLA to win the title in 1980.
Weiler also officiated the 1984 Rose Bowl when UCLA defeated Illinois and worked the Bruins' men's basketball game when Notre Dame snapped UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak on Jan. 19, 1974.
"John Wooden once told me that half of the people are going to love the calls I make and the other half are going to hate them," Weiler said in the IHSA release. "I was all business once that first whistle blew and took to other officials who had the same approach.
"I remember bringing along a young official who would write down everything I said, and that young man, Ed Hightower, turned out to be a pretty good official."
Hightower is superintendent of schools in downstate Edwardsville. He has officiated at 12 Final Fours.
"Rich Weiler is one of the most recognizable names and faces in the history of officiating," IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in the news release. "To have the IHSA linked to his legacy in some small way is a neat thing and to have him look fondly upon his time as an IHSA official makes us very proud.
"We wish him nothing but the best and thank him for all that he did for student-athletes in the high school and collegiate ranks during his time as an official."