John Clougherty 2015
Getting a fair shake. That’s what coaches, players, and fans all want from the game officials. For more than 30 years, John Clougherty delivered just that on the basketball court.
The Pittsburgh-area native was the third child of Tim and Beulah Clougherty. A baseball and football letterman for three years, he graduated in 1962 from Duquesne High School and began his college career as a member of well-respected Michigan State football family. After two years in East Lansing, Clougherty conceded MSU was “much too big and challenging athletically” and transferred to Youngstown State University.
It was there that his first experience with officiating came about, working intramurals for $3 a game. He graduated with honors from Youngstown State in 1968, then took a teaching assistantship from Kent State University. There he earned his master’s in education in 1969, the same year he accepted a teaching position at Wake Forest University.
Clougherty’s big break in officiating came in 1973 when Jack McCloskey, then Wake’s head coach, recommended him to the Atlantic Coast Conference. For two seasons, he officiated small college and freshman games, but quickly earned a promotion to the ACC varsity staff in 1975.
During the next three decades he worked in every major conference east of the Mississippi: SEC, Big East, Atlantic 10, Big 12, Sun Belt, and Conference USA. He officiated conference title games in the ACC (1982), Southwest Conference (1981), Metro Conference (1981-85), Sun Belt Conference (1986, 1989-94); fourteen times he worked the title game in the SEC.
His sterling work led to 26 NCAA Tournament opportunities and eventually the honor of officiating the Final Four. Remarkably, Clougherty was chosen to officiate 12 Final Fours between 1985-2000, including four national championship games. International assignments included the National Sports Festival (1985), National Team Trials (1986), Central American Games (1987), European Olympic Qualifying Tournament (1988 and 1992), and World Championship Games (1987 and 1991).
The 1988-89 season was the pinnacle of Clougherty’s career. His postseason assignments included the Sun Belt and SEC title games, the NIT semifinals and the championship game of the NCAA Tournament – an overtime thriller between Michigan and Seton Hall that earned him prominent references in the book “CBS Sports … Stories from the Final Four.” Off the court, he was awarded the James A. Naismith Award as the nation’s “Most Outstanding Collegiate Official” and also was honored by Youngstown State with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
Clougherty has been named to the Youngstown (Ohio) Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame (2000), the NCHSAA Wall of Champions (2002), Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (Western Chapter, 2003), North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame (2004), and received the National Invitation Tournament Officials Award (2004).
He and his wife, Dorothy, have three sons (Tim, Patrick and Conor) and six grandchildren.