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The History of RAOA

Until about 1960 a loose knit group of guys officiated high school football and boys’ basketball in the Rochester, MN, area.   During this time Red Cochran acted as the secretary/treasurer and games were usually scheduled by phone calls from the athletic director at the school with each individual official.

Back then, there were no by-laws or mission statement and Red acted as a clearing house on keeping track of what officials were going where on what date to help schools to help coordinate the officiating efforts.   The number of dates games played were much fewer then than today.   Basketball was typically played on Tuesdays and Fridays with a rare Saturday date for some schools.   Football was exclusively played on Friday except for MEA Wednesday.

In 1960 Ed Rauen became the secretary/treasurer and the group was formally known as the Rochester Officials Association.   Ed drafted by-laws and a board of directors comprised of President, Vice-President of each of the two sports and the secretary/treasurer.   Ed added some formality to the group by having sport specific meetings in the two sports and an annual all sports meeting in the Spring.

During Ed’s tenure, a new official was required to officiate the first year as a 4th official in a varsity football game and worked the B squad game in basketball with each of the contracted officials working a half with him. At the following Spring meeting the first-year official would be voted either as a member or suggested to work more games. 

The group also hosted a “Smoker” each fall on the Thursday or Friday of MEA week where the local school AD’s and coaches were invited for casual conversation. Soda pop and a light meal was provided with some local business’s sponsoring the event.  This event was held at the old Labor Hall for several years, and one time the event was held at Silver Lake Park and then for many years it was held at the old Holiday Inn South.

In those first years at the Labor Hall, Paul Giel, then AD at the U of M was the guest speaker and the following year Billy Martin, then manager of the Minnesota Twins came and spoke.   The “Smokers” were a great success for many years until school attendance at the MEA meetings was no longer mandatory and the school sports calendars became busier with increased number of games allowed by the MSHSL plus the addition of girls’ sports.

Dave Sperling became the secretary/treasurer for a few years when Ed retired due to his responsibilities at IBM.   Dave turned the job over to Jon Springer in about 1970 and Jon held the job for 12 years.   During Jon’s tenure baseball was added as a sport, as the Minnesota State High School League made it a sport that required registered officials registered.  

Soon after, girls’ sports came on the horizon with girls’ basketball being played in the fall for a couple of years.  At that time, not all schools offered girls basketball as a varsity sport.   With the advent of Title IX, the association added girls’ volleyball, basketball and softball which nearly doubled the scheduling.  Fortunately, many new officials joined the organization to cover the many new sporting events.

The title of the association was expanded to Rochester Area Officials Association since many of the members were residents of surrounding cities.   During Jon’s tenure mentorship was introduced to new football and basketball officials.  The concept was very similar to our mentorship program today—A veteran official would be responsible to follow the progress of a new official.   Also, during Jon’s tenure, schedules were first kept in a manila folder with hand written entries in a chart, later the scheduled evolved to a Lotus 1-2-3 spread sheet.  That must have been an IBM employee’s suggestion.

In 1982, Fred Hoeft took over as secretary-treasurer and scheduler until 1985.  Fred was not comfortable with the spreadsheet, so he moved the schedule back to the manila folder method.  In 1985, Jon returned for a 3-year stint before handing it over to Randy Reimer who did the job until 1989 when Jon Springer was once again the secretary-treasurer and scheduler.  From 1989 to 1993, Jon was secretary/treasurer, and scheduling duties were split – Jon handled football and basketball, and Jim Ayers covered volleyball and baseball/softball.  


Mike Graf joined RAOA in 1989 and became the secretary-treasure in 1993.  In addition to secretary-scheduler, Mike also scheduled all officials for all sports using an Excel spreadsheet and the telephone.  Can you imagine doing this today? No email, no text messages, and no Internet!


The scheduling job was split after membership approved the change at the Spring, 2001 meeting.  So starting in the 2001-02 sports season, we had four schedulers, all using spreadsheets; Mike Graf - football, Don Pankowski - volleyball, Brad Trahan - basketball, and Jon Springer - baseball/softball.  


Basketball is the most time consuming, so Brad quickly figured out that Mike must have been insane to schedule all five sports using a spreadsheet, and he asked if he could use an online tool for basketball.  Mike agreed, and Brad started using online tools in 2002.  What a forward thinker Brad must have been!  The others still used the spreadsheet/phone call method for the next few years.


After Brad left RAOA, Mike Ewen did the scheduled basketball for a few years, and then Jared Butson took over basketball at the Spring 2005 meeting.  At that point, after some discussions with Jared, Mike decided we should move the entire association’s scheduling (not just basketball) to Arbiter.  All four of the schedulers (Mike, Jared, Don, and Jon) got on board to learn the new tool.

In 2014, Jared Butson was elected secretary-treasurer, as Mike had family commitments he needed to focus on.   Jared along with many other officials saw the need to enhance our training and introduced training clinics and other means to help improve each of the association members as officials.  While some of this has come by the way of dictates from the MSHSL, RAOA senior members have played a large part in organized training clinics.


The Rochester Area Officials Association has grown from a small group of 10+ guys in the early 50’s working 2 varsity sports to a present membership of close to 250 members, working 6 sports on a variety of levels.

If anyone reading this document has more information to share, or has more specific knowledge about RAOA’s history, please send an email to Tim Nicometo.

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