The phrase “cum laude” means “with high honor and distinction” – as in graduating college cum laude. How fitting, then, that a high school sports official named Bill Laude should receive the NFHS’ highest honor and distinction – induction into the National High School Hall of Fame.
Laude was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 3, along with 11 other individuals as part of the NFHS Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.
Chicago native Laude did not receive this honor because of his name – apt as it may be – but because of his exceptional accomplishments as a multi-sport official for over half a century and his positive impact on countless young people as both a sports official and an educator.
Officiating career highlights:
Continuing service to high school sports and education
Laude has retired from active officiating but not from the profession. He has been the Illinois High School Association football rules interpreter since 1988 and the head football clinician since 1999. He has developed advanced rules and mechanics training programs for high school officials in Illinois and co-writes the annual IHSA football rules exam.
Laude has had an equally distinguished career as an educator. After earning his professional degree he began teaching in 1971 – mostly business-related courses such as accounting and financial information computing – and continued as an outstanding teacher for 38 years, 36 of which within District 228, during which time he taught at Bremen, Hillcrest, Oak Forest, and Tinley Park high schools.
The genesis of a long and successful officiating career
Laude’s officiating and educational experience were closely intertwined right from the start. While attending high school – a seminary called Quigley South – he was the student in charge of athletic programs. A grade school tournament was about to begin and a priest at his school said “you’re gonna referee the tournament.” He did and had a blast, and subsequently joined the state’s officials association for basketball and baseball. Four years later Bill joined the football officials association.
Laude started umpiring when he was just 15 years old after aging out of Pony League baseball as a player. His mom, a long-time league volunteer, urged him to do something for the league when he couldn’t play anymore, so he became an umpire. He found that he had an instinct for the game which was recognized and appreciated by the league’s more experienced umpires.
“Without any formal training at all, I ended up just doing a lot of things right and showed good judgment,” Laude said. “The older umps were very encouraging. I enjoyed the experience and when I became 20 years old, I joined the high school baseball association.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
A little help along the way
Laude credits a number of people for aiding his development as a sports official – especially Tom Quinn, a Big 10 football official, and Phil Robinson, a Big 10 basketball official. His wife, Sandy, was largely responsible for the Phil Robinson connection in that he was Sandy’s driver’s education teacher back when she and Laude were just dating. He later got to know Robinson better through their high school basketball officials association, and Robinson mentored him during his early years as a basketball official.
Looking back on his career, Laude recalls an incident that shaped his outlook on officiating. “I was working a big game in Chicago’s south suburbs between two teams that were perennial state championship contenders,” he said. “The crowd was loud and raucous. But I soon realized that every time I blew the whistle, half the crowd would boo, no matter what. I understood that they weren't booing me personally, just the guy in the striped shirt. So, I never took things like crowd reaction personally on the court or the field.”
That even-keeled mindset has served Laude very well over the years, culminating in his receiving the NFHS’s highest honor – induction into the National High School Hall of Fame. Now that’s officiating cum laude!
Ken Devoe is a freelance writer specializing in corporate communications. He is a veteran high school basketball officiated high in the New Haven County, Connecticut area and is past president of IAABO Board 10.