‘Jack had a lot of charisma’
Players, coaches remember veteran official Feck

BY TODD MURRAY The Dominion Post
Jack Feck became a basketball official so he could stay involved in the sport he loved.
For 41 years, the flamboyant and charismatic Morgantown native carved out a career as a respected official on the local, national and international basketball scene.
Feck, whose officiating career began while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II, refereed WVU intrasquad scrimmages involving such Mountaineers legends as Jerry West and “Hot Rod” Hundley. He officiated overseas in the Pan American Games and worked a number of games in the old Southern Conference in addition to local high school contests.
He cherished the game and everyone involved in it. That’s what those who knew Feck were remembering in the wake of his death Saturday at the age of 83.
“I played at St. Francis from 1969-’72, and it seemed like Jack officiated half of our games,” Morgantown resident Mike Smith said. “I think he officiated most of the games in town at that time. He was a very fair guy. He was a great storyteller and a great needler. He loved to be needled as well. He could take it as well as he could dish it out.”
Morgantown High boys’ basketball coach Tom Yester has known Feck since he broke into coaching at Rowlesburg in 1969.
“Jack had a lot of charisma,” Yester said. “He was a fun guy. He loved the game. He loved to get out there and sweat a little bit and get going. He was good for basketball. He was a little bit of an ambassador. He was a good man.”
Players, coaches and fans always knew who was in charge when Feck refereed one of their games. Feck was the ultimate showman in an era when referees were expected to be showmen on the court.
When Feck made a call, he made it in the most demonstrative way possible, often waving his arms and hopping around on the court. His voice boomed throughout the gym.
“No! You can’t do that!” Feck would yell at a player who had committed a foul.
Any time two players looked as if they were about to fight, Feck jumped right in between them and quickly put an end to the hostility. “No! No! No!,” he screamed. “You’re not going to do that in my game!”
Feck loved officiating during this era.
“It was all mouth, and it was better because you had more control,” Feck said in a 2003 interview with The Dominion Post.
He never took abuse from spectators. Fans who got on him about his calls during a game would hear from Feck.
“He didn’t like to be embarrassed,” said Tom Baliker, a Greenville, S.C., resident who graduated from St. Francis in 1971. “If somebody in the crowd yelled at him, he’d go right after them. He’d stop the game and embarrass them.”
Feck enjoyed the interaction with players on the court most of all. He often assumed the role of an instructor.
“He would educate you during a game,” Smith said. “He wouldn’t just blow a quick whistle and call fouls. He’d tell you to take your hands off the guy.”
Baliker remembers how Feck would needle him. Feck had remarked that Baliker “wouldn’t have made all-state without me.”
“We played in the state tournament against Charleston Catholic,” Baliker said. “They had a high school All-American named Roy Thompson. I guarded Roy Thompson and held him to eight points.
“For a long time after that, people would say, ‘Geez, you did a great job on Thompson.’ Feck would say, ‘You didn’t hold him to eight points, I did.’ He meant he let me foul the guy.”
Smith said Feck was an impartial referee who wouldn’t hesitate to make a call against a team whose games he frequently worked. A prime example of that occurred in a pair of St. Francis games in the 1972 state tournament.
“In a semifinal game with a minute to go, he made a correct, but controversial, call against Weirton Madonna on a backcourt [violation],” Smith said. “I think they accused him of favoritism since he refereed a lot of St. Francis games. He said, ‘That’s just the way you call that.’
“The next night, the same thing happened to us with a couple of minutes to go. He called [a backcourt] against us. I threw him the ball, and he said, ‘Mike, that’s just the way it goes.’ Luckily, we won both games. I wouldn’t have held it against him. He was a wonderful guy.”
Some of Feck’s favorite stories involved his experiences overseas. One year he was selected to officiate a game between Cuba and Panama in Cuba. At one point, a Cuban player hammered a Panama player as he drove in for a layup. Bedlam ensued.
“The Panamanians came running out of the stands,” Feck said. “I grabbed the ball and was over on the side until they got it cleaned up. I was never so glad to get out of a game.”
Another time, Feck watched in disbelief as a Cuban center defected right before his eyes as he prepared to toss the ball in the air at the start of a Cuba-Mexico game. The center ran right off the court and into a waiting Cadillac.
Feck worried that Fidel Castro would blame him for the defection and couldn’t wait to get on a plane back to Miami after the game. Feck flew back to Miami with 16 Cuban defectors. He was glad he didn’t know Castro had declared that the plane would never make it back to the United States safely.
“He said it would either be hijacked or shot down,” Feck said. “If I had known that, I would have never gotten on that sucker.”
The last game Feck refereed was an exhibition game between Robert Morris and Yugoslavia in 1984. He felt faint during the game and later discovered one of his arteries was completely blocked and another was blocked in two places.
He’s grateful he retired when he did.
“I probably would have died on the floor,” Feck said.
Feck continued to follow the game and always enjoyed running into players whose games he had officiated many years before.
“You would never pass Jack on the street where he wouldn’t say hello or want to know what you were doing and how your wife and kids were doing,” Smith said. “He was a wonderful guy to talk to. He considered all the people he came across as his kids.”

Jason DeProspero/The Dominion Post file photo Jack Feck speaks at a memorial service for Morgantown High classmate Don Knotts in 2006. Feck, 83, died Saturday at his Morgantown home. He was a well-known and respected basketball official for 41 years.