ALLEN - Chet Martin is a professor. On the court and off.
For 20 years, Martin has taught in the kinesiology department at Tarleton State University. For 37 years, he has refereed basketball games.
"To me it's a lot like playing was. It's still very competitive, especially when you get in the college ranks and see how far you can go and what level you can aspire to," said Martin, who lives just outside Stephenville in Erath County. "Just being around the excitement of the game is a real adrenaline rush."
Especially some of the women's games Martin has been selected to officiate.
He was at the Lone Star Conference Championship in Allen Friday, blowing whistles and even wearing the headphones during a video review during a tournament quarterfinal between Angelo State and Midwestern State that ended with MSU winning 70-66 in overtime.
Martin called a Southland Conference tournament game in 2011, and reached the zenith of high school refereeing when he was selected to call the 2003 5A girls championship between Duncanville and Georgetown.
"That was one of the biggest ones to me because it was the 5A state championship and it was on TV," Martin said. "I remember my kids thinking it was pretty cool to turn on the TV and see Dad refereeing."
Martin won't know until after Sunday night's NCAA Division II selection show if he will referee any Division II South Central Regional contests, but he does have one big event already on his calendar. He's been selected to ref a game at the Division III Final Four at Wisconsin-Stevens Point March 21-22.
"I just love being around the game of basketball and being involved in it," Martin said. "The best referees love the game just as much as coaches do."
While fans heckle Martin and other officials over calls - he was even called a "cheater" by one Angelo State fan Friday - he said by and large refs prefer to not overly impact the game with their whistles.
"There is a game now and then where there are about 70 fouls and those aren't very fun for anyone," Martin said. "Most of us prefer a loose game, but you just have to apply the rules the way you interpret them and do it consistently."
That's something Martin has mastered well enough to train other officials. He's taught an officiating class at Tarleton for "15 or 16 years," and even instructs at a clinic of LSC and the Division III American Southwest Conference officials each year.
"I enjoy working with younger officials. I've had a couple guys go through my class who got picked up by (LSC and ASC officials coordinator) Tony Stigliano this year," Martin said. "They get to do college games now, and it started in my class. I take a lot of pride in that and get a great deal of satisfaction in watching them succeed with it."
One product of Martin's class has made it all the way to the NBA.
"Jason Phillips, he's from Cisco and lives in Brock now, went to my class and then three or four years after he was out of school he got into the CBA then the WNBA and finally the NBA. He's been in the NBA for 12 years now," Martin explained. "He did game one of the finals last year.
"I just encouraged him to keep going. The first camp he went to he went with me, and from day one he really had the bug," Martin added. "Years later I'm watching him on TV calling San Antonio and Miami in the Finals."
Martin said good officials know how to balance their own emotions with managing the competing players and coaches.
"There is a lot more to it than just knowing the rules of the game. You have to be able to handle coaches effectively, and that's always half the battle it seems," Martin said. "When you're refereeing you have to keep your emotions in check and stay in control. But when you have a big play and you're selling like a charge call or a basket and a foul, you can have a little fun with it."
Refs prepare for games and keep their skills sharp much the same way teams do.
"We watch film and break it down, see where we made mistakes. We watch to make sure we're getting to the right spots, all that," Martin said. "And we meet before games and discuss what the teams like to do so we know what we're in for. We also talk about trouble players, trouble coaches, things to watch for so we're prepared to keep control of the game."
Officiating means a lot of travel for Martin, who has a wife, Gina, of 29 years and sons Elijah, 20, and Ben, 17. Elijah is a Stephenville High School graduate currently majoring at chemistry at Texas A&M with hopes of advancing to pharmacy school. Ben is a multi-sport standout at SHS who currently leads the Yellow Jacket baseball team in hitting and won the 400 meter at their last track and field meet in Granbury Thursday.
"I told my wife when we got married there was one thing she would have to put up with, and that was me refereeing all winter," Martin said. "She probably thinks I'm crazy for all the traveling I do, but she deals with it well."
Like anything else, Martin said it's the people that make refereeing a great experience for him.
"Referees are like a fraternity because we all have that common bond. That, and you get to know someone pretty well when you spend four or five hours one way in a car with them," Martin said. "Some of my best friends are referees. In fact, my best friend, Tommy Prosise, is a referee. We do just about everything together."
And Martin says he and other officials work hard to ensure the game is fun and fair for everyone involved.
"No. 1, we're out there for the kids," he said. "We're kind of the cops of basketball. We're out there enforcing the rules, providing a safe environment, trying to call it the same for both teams. The bottom line is we want to give them the best opportunity for fair play and an enjoyable experience."