St. Joseph’s Buck wins Norris Award

Published 10:00 am Friday, April 19, 2019

EAST LANSING — One of Michigan’s most respected high school basketball officials, and one of the nation’s top collegiate baseball umpires, St. Joseph’s David Buck has piled up a list of accomplishments over 40 years of officiating — and drawn from those experiences in teaching officials at the local, state and national levels.

To recognize his vast contributions to high school officiating, Buck has been selected to receive the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Vern L. Norris Award for 2019.

The Norris Award is presented annually to a veteran official who has been active in a local officials association, has mentored other officials, and has been involved in officials’ education. It is named for Vern L. Norris, who served as executive director of the MHSAA from 1978-86 and was well-respected by officials on the state and national levels.

David Buck

Buck will be honored at the 40th Officials’ Awards & Alumni Banquet on May 4 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. Norris initiated the annual officials celebration in 1980.

Buck also will be honored with his 40-year service award and remains registered with the MHSAA for basketball. He previously officiated football for 16 years, volleyball for his first seven and baseball for his first five beginning with the 1979-80 school year.

He has focused solely on basketball for the MHSAA since 2002-03 and officiated boys basketball semifinals in 2012 and 2013 and the Class B final in 2009.

Additionally, he officiated 30 college basketball seasons, stepping away from that level a year ago, and has begun his 21st at the NCAA Division I baseball level, working in the Big Ten, Mid-American, Pac-12 and Big West conferences.

He earned College World Series assignments in 2004 and 2007 and umpired in minor league baseball for 11 seasons, including four at the Triple-A level. Buck also is in his 15th year observing and evaluating umpires for Major League Baseball.

As noted, those experiences on the field have provided knowledge he willingly passes on off it. After attending the prestigious Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School – he was named the “outstanding student” in 1984 — Buck also served there as an instructor for eight years. He taught 24 years at the Doane Umpire Camps and also has instructed at the Division I Baseball Regional Umpire Camp.

On the high school level, he’s been a member of the Fruit Belt Officials Association for more than three decades including more than 15 years serving on its board of directors. He developed the FBOA’s mentoring program that pairs novice basketball officials with experienced partners for low-level games, and he also developed the FBOA website and continues to serve as its webmaster.

“Dave Buck generously gives of his time to teach and instruct at clinics all over the country. He is an outstanding teacher who relates to all officials, from the rookies and up-and-comers to the veterans still working at improving their craft,” said MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl. “Dave also has brought a level of enhanced professionalism to the officiating landscape in southwestern Michigan, where he has improved the continuing education, recruitment and retention efforts and assignment process for many officials. I cannot think of a more worthy Vern Norris Award winner than Dave Buck.”

Buck graduated from North Adams-Jerome High School in 1978, then earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Central Michigan University. Although he has never taught fulltime in a school, Buck did serve as a substitute teacher frequently during his offseasons from professional baseball and has spent a significant part of his non-sports professional life teaching and training in a variety of settings.

Not only is Buck a highly-respected teacher and trainer in officiating, but he’s also a determined recruiter for the avocation — with the opportunity to connect a candidate with officiating part of what drives him to continue playing such a major role.