Felecity Willis, a two-time All-Pac-10 player for Arizona in 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, has achieved her goal as a college referee — becoming a Pac-12 official.
Willis, 40, announced the news on Facebook: “Wanted to share some good news with everyone, those who know me and/or have ever worked with me knows how much this means to me. I have been working towards this goal since I started officiating 9 years ago and it is here!! I have a lot of people to thank and they know who they are without them this would not have been possible. I love what I do!! Pac12!!!!!!!”
Before her appointment by the Pac-12, Willis officiated all across the western United States, employed by four Division I college conferences. She also works Division II, NAIA and junior college basketball games.
Willis has been prominent in Tucson since she played basketball and softball at Arizona from 1996 to 2000. She holds the distinction of playing on four NCAA tournament teams at Arizona as well as twice taking part in the Women’s College World Series with the softball team.
While playing professionally in basketball and softball, Willis was told by long-time Tucson basketball official Bob Scofield that she should give officiating a try.
She tried coaching at the high school level at Tucson, Salpointe and Rincon and also coached youth club teams, but she did not gain a sense of fulfillment.
“I would see Bob and he would always try to get me to come and referee. I was like, ‘Bob, no, I’m not going to referee,’” Willis told me for a story last summer when she was working games, like she always does, for the Tucson Summer Pro League for Kids. “I never thought I would be a referee. When coaching didn’t pan out, I went to Bob and took him up on his offer. I went to one of his camps (in 2010) and I just fell in love with it.”
Her officiating role model is Brenda Pantoja, a good friend of hers who also played for Joan Bonvicini at Arizona. Pantoja, whose officiating background includes working WNBA and NBA D-League games, has worked the last three Division I women’s championship games.
Within only three years, Willis started officiating Division I women’s college basketball games. She has worked games in the Big Sky, Mountain West, West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference, as well as Division II, NAIA and junior college games.
“It’s a matter of continuing to work hard and getting better,” she said. “Hopefully, my time will come then and I’ll get hired in the Pac-12. That’s my goal.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.