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When sports teams lose, people often turn to the referee and point their finger as if the loss was entirely the fault of the zebra-striped official.

But even if a few bad calls are made, oftentimes the one with the whistle is not to blame for the outcome of the game.

With more than 20,000 UCF students competing in intramural sports, whatever the team, sport or outcome may be, the student officials are there to make the call, no matter how it sways the result.

"It's not easy to deal with constant scrutiny," said John Conley, who is working toward his master's degree in educational leadership and is one of two IM sports graduate assistants. "Ethics and morals are tested because officials are the unbiased team on the field."

Only current UCF students and faculty members with a gym membership are allowed to become IM referees and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center provides about 100 referees year-round for the eight team sports hosted.

Sports are a way of life for Conley and his officiating career began before he attended UCF. He now works NCAA Division I basketball games during the season and has been hired to officiate NBA Development League games.

"Both of my parents were high-level basketball referees and it was in my blood to follow them," Conley said. "I was a former athlete and wanted to stay connected to my favorite sport of basketball. What better way to be involved than running up and down the court with the players and having the best seat in the house?"

Although there have been many intramural referees taking the next step to NCAA sports, only Conley and former UCF referee Steve Anderson have made it to the professionals thus far.

Anderson officiated four Intramural National Championships tournaments in his time at UCF and has been officiating NBA games since the 2013-14 season.

Gary Cahen has made the intramural courts and turf fields his home away from home since coming to UCF as a freshman in 1996. He has climbed the ranks from an intramural referee to become the associate director of intramural programs at UCF.

Cahen was the first UCF IM referee to officiate an Intramural National Championships tournament when he officiated the 2001 Flag Football National Championships. Much like Conley, he has honed his craft enough to officiate NCAA Division I football games.

Senior psychology major Samantha Steinmetz, who is an intramural league supervisor and has been officiating at UCF for a year and a half, doesn't intend taking her officiating career to the next level, but hopes to help other women who may want to.

"It is definitely a boys club. But I feel like, here at UCF, we're really trying to introduce more women into the field," Steinmetz said. "We have some of the highest numbers in the country [for women referees] and we definitely encourage a lot of our girls to be more confident, be more vocal and just participate."

It doesn't matter if the sport is floor hockey or flag football, all intramural referees are held to the same standards. They build the same set of skills to take to the professional world.

"It's much more than just watching sports now," said Randall Korn, a junior accounting major and IM lead supervisor. "Working for intramurals has helped me grow and actually develop as a leader."

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Jake Lagnado is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

Jarrod Heil is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Find him on Twitter @JHeil11.

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