South Charlotte

Referee provider to retire after 4 decades

For more than 40 years, Bill Freeman and his company have provided officials for area sports.

Now, at age 80, he's closing up shop, and it will take six booking agencies to replace him.

When school ends in just a few weeks, Freeman will close the doors on his south Charlotte company, Bill Freeman Sports Officials.

Freeman, who lives in the Quail Hollow area, started officiating in 1953 while in the Air Force. When he moved to Charlotte with General Motors in the 1960s, he founded his own company on the side, working evenings and weekends as an official for several sports as well as scheduling other officials for high school and league games.

In 1975, he formed the Metrolina Officials Association, which specialized in recruiting, training and scheduling officials for football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer.

When he retired, his company became the exclusive booking agency for all North Carolina High School Athletic Association teams in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.

Presently, Bill Freeman Sports Officials represents almost 600 registered officials for all sports and schedules more than 10,000 games for area schools during a calendar year - public, private, varsity, junior varsity, middle school and some recreation leagues.

On any given school day, that's about 100 games, and, if it rains, referees have to be notified and everything has to be rescheduled.

His office walls are lined with numerous awards he's received over the past four-plus decades from a variety of sports organizations. Most recently he was presented with a Golden Whistle Merit Award for his lifetime of service to the world of high school officiating, an honor created in partnership with the NCHSAA, the North Carolina Coaches Association and the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association.

Freeman is closing his business instead of selling it because of a state law that prohibits an agency from scheduling officials for more than one sport per season. He was grandfathered in when the law was passed, but a new owner wouldn't have that advantage.

So when he closes his business, there will be six booking agencies picking up the work of Freeman and his two employees - wife and assistant, Caroline, and assistant Diane Shaul.

Shaul hopes to continue in the business, planning to freelance with other booking agencies.

Caroline Freeman will retire along with her husband and the two are already making travel plans, including a trip to Colorado this fall to see one of their sons.

"I've always wanted to go out west in the fall, but it's such a busy time for us. We also want to spend more time in the mountains. And we've got a grandson going to school in Scotland next year, so we may go see him, too," said Bill Freeman.

Having a four-plus decade view of sports, Freeman has a unique perspective. Over the years, he says, he's seen youth sports become more and more serious.

"I think the games are more intense because everyone sees all the money these pro players are raking in. They all think they are going to get in the pros, and it doesn't always happen," he said.

"Remember to work hard and do not neglect your grades. But don't forget to have fun."