The NCAA relies on a cadre of experts to be the caretakers of playing rules, but none are more important than the men and women charged with interpreting those rules on a daily basis.
There are 15 of these “secretary-rules editors” who serve as spokespersons and edit rules books in sports for which the NCAA writes them. Many have served tirelessly in the role for decades, but since the Association approved legislation in 2003 to limit rules editor service to eight years (a four-year term renewable once), some of the veterans have begun cycling off their committees.
Following are profiles of three of them: Barb Kalbus, who has served water polo since 2002; Cliff McCrath, who has been soccer’s only secretary-rules editor; and wrestling hall of famer and former Clarion coach Bob Bubb, who has served in his post in wrestling since 1990.
Like many parents, Barb Kalbus became interested in a particular sport because her kids showed interest in it. For Kalbus, the sport she has been immersed in since 1970 is water polo. She has been the NCAA water polo secretary-rules editor since the position came into being in 2002.
Her term in that rules role ends Sept. 1.
Kalbus’ oldest son, Randy, began playing the sport at the age of 12 in Southern California. Kalbus would attend the games and eventually started to help run the tournament desks at events.
When Randy went away for college to Stanford, Kalbus kept attending water polo matches.
She saw a recruiting poster for the UC Irvine water polo team, and that was the team she began following.
“My son said I had nothing else better to do, which was true,” said Kalbus, who worked at Long Beach City College from 1959 to 1997 in various roles, including two stints as interim president. “I managed the desk at Cal Irvine. I still do that. I’m sure I’m the longest living scorekeeper for one team.”
In February, in fact, Kalbus ran the desk for a big tournament at UC Irvine just like she has for decades.
“I got there at 7 a.m. and left after 7 p.m.,” Kalbus said. “When I run a desk, I staff it completely and train them and develop all the material.”
Kalbus, a native of Wisconsin who has a doctorate in botany and biochemistry, also helped run the desks at the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships throughout the 1970s. In 1978, she decided to dedicate herself strictly to water polo.
Kalbus also became active in USA Water Polo, which has a distinguished volunteer award named after her.
By 1984, she was the president of the organization when the U.S. Men’s Water Polo team competed in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She was the manager for the U.S. Olympic Men’s teams for the 1998, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Games, too.
One of the most rewarding projects she worked on concerning water polo rules came in the 1990s when she helped rewrite the rules book.
“Originally, there were only eight rules for water polo,” Kalbus said. “I helped reorganize the book in 1998. We went to 25 rules and completely reorganized it. At the time, there were college rules, high school rules and international rules. It was hard for coaches and referees to keep the differences straight. That was one of my goals over the years.”
Mostly, Kalbus enjoyed the people she’s met through her time in the sport.
“I enjoyed working with the coaches and administrators,” Kalbus said. “I met some great people.”
− Greg Johnson
NCAA committee members have come and gone, but there’s one guy in soccer who’s seemingly never left.
And by all accounts, that’s a good thing.
Cliff McCrath, the secretary-rules editor for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Committee, has been interpreting the soccer rules landscape since 1974. He’ll be around for a while longer, too, though he’s among several longtime rules editors affected by terms limits the Association adopted in 2003.
Those new policies mean secretary-rules editors (non-voting members of NCAA playing rules committees) can serve a four-year term, renewable once, for a total of eight years (twice the standard committee term). Before 2003, secretary-rules editors were immune to term limits, which meant stability for an important position, but the Playing Rules Oversight Committee recommended the restrictions in part as a way to infuse fresh perspective into the process.
That means the Association has lost a lot of institutional knowledge over the last few years as longtime secretary-rules editors have cycled off their committees.
In McCrath’s case, his term will extend until September 2012 since the soccer rules committee just completed its rules book cycle (rules books are revised and printed every other year). Ken Andres, a lawyer by trade and a longtime soccer referee by avocation, already has been named as McCrath’s successor, but the two men will collaborate in the role for another 18 months.
McCrath has managed to remain fresh throughout his term, even though the workload has increased incrementally. As with everything else, technology has made rules interpreters much more accessible to interpretation seekers (or those who just want to settle an argument with their buddies). McCrath calls the affliction “email-arrhea.”
He even receives video streams now from agitated coaches who claim the play they have captured is “the worst call ever” or one “that couldn’t possibly have been ruled offside.”
To be sure, the secretary-rules editor often toils in anonymity, yet the role of editing the rules book and serving as an objective spokesperson throughout the year is vital for the college game.
“Having a secretary-rules editor – particularly within the committee structure – provides credibility to interpretations for those who feel the answer is coming from someone ‘outside’ the corporate structure,” McCrath said. “This doesn’t mean the staff person is not qualified; it just eliminates the notion that someone ‘inside’ might not be as sympathetic to the problem.
“It’s similar to players feeling less pressure going to an assistant coach than the head coach because they feel they might have a better audience.”
McCrath knows a thing or two about coaching, also. He spent 37 seasons roaming the sidelines at Seattle Pacific, leading the men’s team to 512 victories against only 190 losses and 87 ties – the best record in Division II history. In 49 seasons overall, he was 597-233-95, the second-winningest college coach regardless of division. McCrath was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 37 years as a secretary-rules editor, though, McCrath said he’s most proud of shedding some light on the myth that the committee made decisions in “smoke-filled boardrooms.” The sunshine became even brighter when at McCrath’s behest representatives from the soccer officiating association and other outside groups were brought into committee meetings on an ad hoc basis.
McCrath also advocated and achieved a recodified rules book to align more with the international “laws” of the game. And, in keeping with the increased demand prompted by improved technology, McCrath also likes how his answers have kept pace with the questions.
“In most cases,” he said, “it’s been almost instant ‘before breakfast’ response to requests.”
McCrath’s top-of-the-morning interps have meant a lot of good days for a lot of good people in college soccer.
− Gary Brown
Bob Bubb never pictured himself being secretary-rules editor for NCAA wrestling.
But his dedication to the sport led to him holding that position for the past 21 years. His invaluable service is coming to an end this September when his term as SRE ends. He’ll hand the reins to Ohio Northern head coach Ron Beaschler, who will begin an eight-year term as secretary-rules editor at that time.
Bubb began his committee service in the 1980s and was asked by former NCAA championships staffer Karl Benson, now the commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference, if he would be interested in being the secretary-rules editor.
“My paths in this world have been pretty good,” said Bubb, who was the wrestling coach at Clarion from 1966 to 1992. “Once one thing finished, and something else opened up for me.”
Bubb held the dual role of head coach and secretary-rules editor for two years.
“I’m a glutton for punishment, and I held that position for two years then I retired from coaching,” said Bubb, who was elected as a Distinguished Member to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005. “It gave me more time to put into the position.”
One of the programs he’s most proud of that was implemented during his time as an NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee member is the weight-management program created in 1987.
“To watch the program grow since it was instituted is a good thing,” Bubb said. “That has filtered down and it’s in all the high school federations now. It is good how it has affected the sport.”
Bubb grew up in Lock Haven, Pa., where he began wrestling his freshman year in high school. By his senior year, he was a state runner-up. His performance earned him a chance to wrestle in college at Pittsburgh.
The legendary Rex Peery was his coach with the Panthers. Peery was a three-time NCAA champion in his wrestling days. Peery’s two sons, Hugh and Ed, duplicated their father’s feat by winning three national titles.
Bubb, whose best season was coming in fourth at 147 pounds one season, and Ed Peery were teammates at Pittsburgh.
After graduating in 1959 with a degree in education, Bubb was hired to coach the wrestling team at Tyrone Area High School for seven years. His job placed him about 30 miles from Penn State, where he earned a master’s degree.
In 1966, he was hired as the coach at Clarion.
“You had to be a teacher to coach back in those days,” Bubb said. “I taught health and physical education. The area I worked in most was elementary and secondary education. I taught students in those fields how to deal with first aid and safety and how to be first responders to emergencies they may face with their students.”
Bubb taught until 1995 when he retired. Wrestling played a major role all the way.
“Staying in the sport was important to me,” Bubb said. “Wrestling has opened a lot of doors for me.”
− Greg Johnson
|Sport/committee||SRE as of 9/1/11 (term)*||Former SRE (term)|
|Baseball||Jim Paronto (2003-15)||Richard Fetchiet (2001-03)|
|Women’s bowling||Ron Holmes (2006-14)||N/A^|
|Men’s basketball||Art Hyland (2010-18)||Ed Bilik (1997-2010)|
|Women’s basketball||Debbie Williamson (2006-14)||Barb Jacobs (1996-2006)|
|Football||Rogers Redding (2008-16)||John Adams (1992-2008)|
|Ice hockey||Steve Piotrowski (2008-16)||John Harrington (2007-08)|
|Men’s lacrosse||Don Zimmerman (2008-16)||Chuck Winters (1974-82, 1992-08)|
|Women’s lacrosse||Pat Dillon (2006-14)||N/A^|
|Skiing||Fredrik Landstedt (2006-14)||Terry Aldrich (1989-2006)|
|Soccer||Ken Andres (2011-19)||Cliff McCrath (1974-2012)|
|Softball||Dee Abrahamson (1996-2013)||N/A^|
|Swimming and diving||Brian Gordon (2009-16)||Sue Petersen Lubow (1989-2009)|
|Track/Cross Country||Bob Podkaminer (2004-12)||Margaret Simmons (1986-2004)|
|Women’s volleyball||Anne Pufahl (2011-19)||Marcia Alterman (2002-11)|
|Water polo||Brian Streeter (2011-19)||Barbara Kalbus (2002-11)|
|Wrestling||Ron Beaschler (2011-19)||Bob Bubb (1991-2011)|
*Terms are four years and renewable once, for a maximum of eight.
#Paronto’s term began before limits were imposed.
^Person has been the SRE since the establishment of the committee.