Luckie, Farrell Feel Fortunate; Hopeful For Next Season
BY DAVE SHEA
Moving into the second half of April college basketball fans are dealing with the disappointment of missing the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournaments for the first time ever.
March Madness was replaced with March Sadness in face of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
The Men's and Women's Tournaments were both cancelled in their first round when the COVID-19 virus spread across the country at stunning pace. Everyone involved the sport is already looking ahead to next season with great hope and excitement.
Jamie Luckie and Nate Farrell, two veteran NCAA Men's Division I officials from Ogdensburg, are looking ahead with extreme anticipation and feeling very fortunate for the decisions which made by the NCAA to shut down all winter championships and then cancel all spring collegiate seasons.
"It was very disappointing because you enjoy the conference tournaments so much and then look forward to an NCAA tournament assignment with great excitement. It is a real whirlwind," said Luckie who had worked the NCAAs for the last 20 years.
"It was tough but we were very fortunate. Only six officials contracted the virus along with a one or two people from administrative staffs."
Both Luckie and Farrell are now at home with their families in the nationwide vigil for Americans who are hopeful that the peak of pandemic has passed and taking solace that a reopening of the country might take place in a reasonable time frame in gradual stages.
"It was surreal, we were at the Big East Tournament when everything was shut down. We were all disappointed but health and safety comes first," said Farrell.
JAMIE LUCKIE PROUD OF OFFICIATING TREE
Jamie Luckie, who has worked three NCAA Division Final Fours, saw a string of 20 straight trips to "The Big Dance" end when the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown went into effect in the early stages of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Since coming home to wait out the social distancing buffer against the disease he has enjoyed having his family with three adult children reunited. His wife Candace works three 12-hour shifts in Charlotte, N.C. while he is at home presiding over conversations with Kyle Luckie who works for a shipping firm in Virginia, Sean Luckie who coaches soccer at Charlotte Catholic High School and Morgan who is an Assistant Women's Soccer Coach at North Florida University.
"When the NBA shut down we knew that we were going to follow. It was disappointing but it was the right decision," says Luckie.
"It has been great spending time with my family but everyone is looking forward to getting things back to normal."
Luckie also looks back to a great decision he made a generation ago to move to the North Carolina with his wife Candace to seriously pursue his dream of becoming an NCAA Division I official.
Well known and respected around the country his "college officiating tree" took root and now includes fellow Ogdensburg natives in Nate Farrell, his brother Michael Luckie and nephew Owen Luckie and his son Kyle Luckie.
"It is really great to see how well these guys have done. They all officiate like coaches' kids," says Luckie.
"Nate is right up there doing the Big East, Big 12 and Atlantic 10 and three NCAA Tournaments. Michael had a big year and did the first two rounds of the Big South Conference, my son Kyle worked the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Owen works for the NBA is making a name for himself."
Jamie Luckie worked 80 games before the season was shut down and called it a very memorable year. The Atlantic Coast Conference was his primary league and he also worked the Big East, the Big 12, the Atlantic 10 and the American Conference
"It was really an exciting year. There was so much parity and there was so many close games.
And anyone could beat anyone else at any time. I did the game where Wake Forrest came to Duke with only four or five wins and won in double overtime. Also, I got a chance to attend a Sacred Heart game and watch by nephew Kinnon LaRose play in person for the first time since he was seventh grade," said Luckie.
"They moved the three point line back a little and the players had to adjust. Basketball has gone from inside-to-outside to outside-to-outside. For me, the games aren't as pretty as they were before but they are very exciting and the fans like it."
Like all other Division I officials Luckie is facing tremendous uncertainties and hopes that new season will start on time.
"This virus crisis is unprecedented. Nobody really knows anything for sure. Camps are on hold right now and we are just hopeful that the might open in July. Camps are so important. That is where officials earn their opportunities." says Luckie.
"Things are going to be different in the future. Just in terms of travel planes won't be packed anymore. They are already talking about eliminating the middle seats in each aisle. I just hope for the best, people really miss sports at all levels."
Until the camps open Luckie plans to watch and evaluate films and use an app which is now being developed for officials interact with each other.
NATE FARRELL BACK IN CLASSROOM
Nate Farrell enjoyed a very successful career in education and served as high school principal until three years ago when his 75-80 game schedule made it impossible.
"The demands with all the travel in my officiating was just too much. I just couldn't keep working as a principal," said Farrell.
But ever since the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the country he is back teaching again. He is home schooling his two children Lillian 7 and Christian 4 at his family's home Delmar, N.Y.
"I am teaching the kids downstairs while my wife Joy works for BOECES is working upstairs in the office. Sometimes I feel like I want to switch but it is a lot of fun being with the kids. We are always busy" he says.
Farrell throughly enjoyed his 11th officiating season where the Big East was his primary conference. He also worked regular season games in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and the Atlantic 10 and also called games at several Mid Major venues.
"The Big East is such a great conference because of the great tradition of the conference. Basketball is the big sport in the schools and all of the games are so intense and seem to go right down to the wire," says Farrell.
"The ACC is obviously one of the top conferences and the Atlantic 10 is another league with great basketball traditions. I have worked in some of the great arenas in the country.
This season was made even more memorable as his dad Terry Farrell and his uncle and longtime Section 10 boys and girls basketball official Pat Farrell joined him for a five-game swing.
"We had a quite a week and dad and uncle Pat were there for the Georgetown, Seton Hall game that I worked along with Jamie Luckie. They also saw games at Virginia, Rhode Island and Army," says Farrell.
"I have worked several games with Jamie over the years and it is always special to work a game with him. He definitely blazed a trail and set the frame work for me and many other officials. I have also worked some games with Jamie's brother, Michael Luckie, and he is an outstanding official. A few years ago we worked a game at Madison Square Garden which was very special."
And like so many officials including Jamie Luckie the first steps on the trail to the bright lights of the mainstream NCAA Division I venues started in small gyms in out of the way places.
"When I started I did a lot of doubleheaders of modified games in the small gym at OFA and a lot of other places. Tommy Luckie was my assignor and he got me as many games as he could. And at times it seemed like I was living at St. Lawrence doing all those camp games. I can't believe that now I doing great games all over the country." says Farrell.
And there are no shortcuts on that trail.
"Jamie Luckie showed us how it was done and it isn't easy. You have to get to as many camps as you can and work every bit of every game very well because you never know who is watching," says Farrell.
"You just hope that you get your chance. It is very competitive and I feel very fortunate that I got my chance to be a full time official. It is a real challenge but it is a great profession."