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Longtime official Schwartzkopf calls it a career after state tournament





Herb Schwartzkopf is hosting a little shindig in a few weeks. He is stepping down after a 41-year career as a football and basketball official, and is sure to be regaled with stories from friends.

First was getting through Saturday night in Gross Memorial Coliseum.

As an official all these years, Schwartzkopf has been in big games, in packed gyms many times. Saturday at GMC was different, however, because the spotlight was on him. The Kansas State High School Activities Association honored him before the boys' championship game at the Class 1A Division II state tournament.

"I was more nervous tonight than in 1986, when I did the state championship game (in GMC), Mankato and Northern Valley," Schwartzkopf said. "I was more nervous now than I was then."

Schwartzkopf, 64, who graduated from Ransom High School in 1966, went to college for three years at Fort Hays State University before enlisting in the Navy. When he was stationed in the Philippines, he met his future wife, Lolita.

Schwartzkopf, a skinny teenager, didn't play for his high school teams. In the service, he made up for it, playing football, basketball and fast-pitch softball.

He was the starting safety in the Manila Bowl in 1970, which pitted teams from the Navy and Air Force. Navy won, 18-17, an experience that had a lasting influence on Schwartzkopf.

When he was an area supervisor for 23 years, Schwartzkopf would tell young officials about the importance of every game. If coaches want players to play every game as if it's their last, Schwartzkopf wanted referees to officiate every game as if it was their last.

"That junior high game may be their Manila Bowl," Schwartzkopf said. "They may never get another chance."

Schwartzkopf's whistle might remain silent now, but the laughter from friendships formed through the years still will be heard.

"You look back, the unbelievable friends and comrades you've made," Schwartzkopf said. "I think that's the biggest thing.

"When we go places, yeah, we goof around. But when we walk out there, one mission: that's to be the best for those kids."

Schwartzkopf said his desire was to help influence children's lives, all those years running up and down the court and on the football field.

"I just got so many kids I 'adopted.' They come out in the summer, help on the farm, just like family," he said. "If I helped one kid do something right in their life, then it was a success."