Illinois sports official earns his stripes as hall of fame inductee
It's official: Bill Laude has finally scored.
After spending more than 50 years officiating games, the Frankfort resident got his turn in the spotlight recently when he was elected to the 2017 National Federation of State High School Associations’ National High School Hall of Fame.
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) said the honor is the highest accolade given in high school sports.
But Laude has always shied attention, preferring that the teams he is overseeing get the notice. He told the Southwest Illinois News that one of the nicest compliments he has ever received was when a coach said that Laude did not help his team or hurt it.
“And I thought, that's a wonderful thing to say,” Laude said.
Laude is the 27th Illinoisan to be inducted into the hall and the seventh nationally to go in as part of the Officials category. His formal induction will be on July 2 in Providence, Rhode Island.
“My reaction was pleased and surprised, and then when I started getting phone calls, the magnanimousness, the hugeness of it hit me, and it got emotional for me,” he said.
Laude, who started officiating IHSA games in 1962, has worked five state championship football games and three state finals tournaments in basketball and baseball. He also remains the IHSA's head football clinician, a position he took in 1999.
“Bill is not only regarded as an outstanding official, he’s also known for being one of the elite instructors/clinicians at the high-school level,” William LeMonnier, a retired Big Ten official and current ESPN rules analyst, said in the IHSA report on Laude’s honor. “The success I have enjoyed as an official, and now as a rules analyst for ESPN, had a lot to do with my early years officiating with Bill, and the solid direction and example he provided.”
Laude now works replays for the Big Ten and Mid-American conferences in football, while his time running clinics is a natural extension of his work as a teacher at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Wauconda High School and schools in District 228.
His officiating days actually began when he was 15 and had finished playing in a local youth baseball program. He wanted to continue in some capacity, so decided to try being an umpire.
“I did a lot of things at the age of 15,” he said. “I did a lot of things accidentally correct, and it was just very encouraging.”
That early success led to a long career in a specialized field, which Laude appreciates.
“I can do something — and all officials can do something — that everybody else thinks they can do, but can't do,” he said.
Yet when asked if he ever made a bad call, Laude replied, “Oh heavens, yes.”
Recently, he watched a videotape of a game he officiated during a state finals basketball game and saw himself make an incorrect call on a foul.
“And there was a call I made, and I thought, 'My god, I really made that call?' " he said.
Laude said his concentration would always get sharper when he officiated something special.
“Because I don't want to be the one who is remembered for this great game,” he said. “I want the two teams to be remembered for the great game.”
With his selection to the hall, it looks like Laude will be remembered whether he likes it or not.
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