Basketball referee Gene Hogan noticed a young player standing outside the free-throw lane with a face full of tears after he was whistled for a foul during a Boys and Girls Club basketball game.

Hogan stopped the clock to tell him that fouling while trying to make a play on the ball is a sign of effort, and showing effort is nothing to be ashamed of. The youngster’s face lit up with a smile as the tears faded, reminding Hogan why he loves refereeing elementary basketball.

“He was the happiest thing in the world after that,” Hogan said. “That’s worth doing. I love that kind of stuff.”

The 79-year-old Columbus resident has been referreing basketball and umpiring softball for nearly 47 years. Refereeing at the elementary level is his favorite.

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Hogan began officiating back in 1971, but growing up as an athlete helped gravitate him toward this path. Hogan grew up playing basketball with his cousin, former ABL player Max Perry.

Hogan and Perry started at the boys and girls club and made the All-Star team by age 9. They played together until Hogan left for the service midway through their sophomore year of high school. He moved to Oklahoma when he was done with the service before a Cummins job opening brought him back to Columbus five years later.

Hogan continued with his athletic niche by joining a softball league with Cummins while refereeing and umpiring at the same time. He worked second shift, so he would umpire Cummins games in the mornings before heading into work.

It wasn’t until 1981 when Hogan received his license and began refereeing high school games. He enjoyed umpiring softball games for Cummins, Department of Parks and Rec and Columbus Softball Association games and refereeing games from fifth graders up to adult basketball.

Hogan has called games for three generations of family members, and next season, will be working on his fourth. He even umpired a softball game for his two daughters, who were competing against each other at the time.

Even though he is just one nose break away from being forced to have surgery, Hogan never had an injury on the court in all his years of refereeing until Sept. 4. It was the last game of the season for the St. John Sauers eighth-grade boys basketball league, and Hogan was running up the court as the trail official. The ball was being pushed up the court when an intercepted pass forced the action to go the other way.

“They started back down the floor, and those boys are fast,” Hogan said. “I turned around to take off to get under the basket. I got under the basket, and I turned everything but my feet. I busted my butt big time.”

Hogan is unsure of what the injury is, but thinks it may have something to do with his lower back since he is experiencing pain in his right leg. Whatever the situation, Hogan does not plan on having back surgery.

“I’m 80 years old,” Hogan said. “At 80 years old, you don’t get your back operated on. I’ll just take the pain and let it go. Toughing it out.”

Hogan will not be umpiring for softball this summer but hopes to be back on the basketball court this winter.

Gene Hogan

Name: Gene Hogan

Age: 79

Years Officiating: 47

Sports: Basketball, softball

Favorite to officiate: Elementary basketball

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.