Pfeifer’s 10th season as Division I ref comes to sudden stop

Mitchell resident Kelly Pfeifer, right, signals a 3-pointer by Michigan's Franz Wagner (21) against Maryland this past season.

Kelly Pfeifer won’t soon forget his 10th season as an NCAA Division I college basketball referee.

The Mitchell resident had another “busy season,” officiating major college basketball across 11 conferences. He was right in the thick of working conference tournaments when the 2019-20 college basketball season came to an abrupt end.

Pfeifer’s last game was the Summit League men’s basketball championship game between North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota on March 10 in Sioux Falls. He was set to work a Big Ten tournament game two days later in Indianapolis, Indiana, when it was canceled due to COVID-19.

“It was interesting already because there were no fans in the gym for that game.” Pfeifer said. “We weren’t on the floor very long and we were told to go to the locker room and just like that, the Big Ten tournament was done.”

Other college basketball tournaments were also canceled the same day, while a few hours later the NCAA announced all remaining winter and spring championships for both men’s and women’s sports were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.


“I would say about four hours later, I was at the airport flying back home and then the NCAA tournament got canceled,” Pfeifer said. “Just like that, the season was over.”

And also just like that, Pfeifer’s 10th season refereeing Division I basketball was over. He officiated games in 11 different Division I conferences: Big Ten, Pac 12, Mountain West Conference, West Coast Conference, Big Sky, Summit League, Mid-American Conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, American East Conference, Western Atlantic Conference and Horizon League.

Pfeifer has been officiating basketball for 15 years overall and he’s worked his way up from sub-varsity games, varsity games, NAIA and NCAA Division II while eventually earning Division I status. He’s also officiated games in the NBA Development League and NBA Summer League.

After the Big Ten tournament was canceled this year, Pfeifer was back in Mitchell that night and has since continued working with Vantage Point Solutions. He’s also gotten to spend more time with his wife, Ashley, and their children.

Pfeifer, a former Dakota Wesleyan University basketball player, is also using this time to improve his craft. Pfeifer and other referees breakdown plays together through video chats.

“We look at plays, look at situations and just continue to get better and hopefully get ready for next year,” he said.

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