Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame’s Steve O’Neill’s Leadership Elevated Fellow Officials
By SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME // December 8, 2013
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: Steve O’Neill became a standout high school football and basketball official, working 11 years in Ohio, and one year each in West Virginia and Tennessee before his “real” job brought him to Florida and the Space Coast in 1981.
STEVE O’NEILL – 2013 INDUCTEE
- FHSAA Hall of Fame Inductee
- NFOA Distinguished Active Official
- 2-Time MCOA President
‘HEY STEVE, WANT TO MAKE 5 BUCKS?’
The career of one of the most celebrated high school and college sports officials to ever blow a whistle in Florida was spawned in 1964 with a simple question posed to the then 18-year old high school senior at Springfield (Ohio) North by his science teacher: “Hey, Steve, want to make five bucks?”
The prospect of earning over a hundred dollars officiating games of a 3-week intramural basketball tournament at the school was something he couldn’t pass up.
The Springfield North head basketball coach, Don Henderson, who worked with the rookie ref, was so impressed with the way O’Neill handled himself that he told him, “You’re really good at this,” and made a few calls to help launch a 45-year Hall of Fame career.
Steve O’Neill became a standout high school football and basketball official, working 11 years in Ohio, and one year each in West Virginia and Tennessee before his “real” job brought him to Florida and the Space Coast in 1981.
Over the 32 years that he officiated football, basketball and baseball for the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) he distinguished himself as a man of integrity, fairness and, above all, one whose focus was always on what was best for the athletes.
“I covered high school football from the sidelines so I was able to observe Steve up close and personal,” said Barbara Caywood in her letter of recommendation for O’Neill when he was being considered for induction into the national High School Hall of Fame.
“I was always impressed with the way he handled his officiating duties. He was friendly, but fair and always made the welfare of the young athletes his highest priority.”
The high regard in which he was held by his officiating peers, coaches and administrators is reflected in the hundreds of District, Regional, Sectional and Florida state championship games that he was selected to officiate.
In addition to officiating, he has dedicated countless hours to youth football and basketball programs, and has been instrumental in developing exemplary training programs for new officials.
He was always willing to help the younger officials improve and was instrumental in coordinating local and state training clinics for the Mid Coast and Central Florida Official’s Associations.
Terry Humphreys, coach, past president of the Cape Coast Conference and administrator in the Brevard Public School system said of O’Neill, “Steve was exemplary! Not only did he do an exceptional job of officiating many sports, his long-time leadership was invaluable to athletics in central Florida.”
Always active in local and regional officials associations, O’Neill served as president for the Mid Coast Officials Association (MCOA) twice, once for a 5-year term and later for an unprecedented 15 years.
His tireless service to MCOA prompted Humphreys to say, “Steve raised the degree of professionalism within MCOA through his exceptional officiating skills, organizational leadership, fellowship with his peers and pure love of sports and the kids.”
EPITOME OF WHAT AN OFFICIAL SHOULD BE
All of O’Neill’s special honors and achievements are too numerous to mention here.
The three that are most noteworthy are the National Federation of Interscholastic Officials Association (NFOA) recognition as recipient of the Florida State Active Official Award for Basketball in 1991 and the NFOA Distinguished Active Official Award Section 3 (Southeast U.S.) in1997; and his induction into the FHSAA Hall of Fame in 2002.
O’Neill has also officiated at the college level in football and basketball at the University of Central Florida in the late 80s and 90s, and in Division I basketball in the Sunshine State Conference basketball from 1983 to 1995.
He retired from officiating last year, but with Cynthia, his wife of 45-years, four grown children and four grandchildren, and his 29-year business, MCS Courier Service, the “old whistle-blower” still stays pretty busy. In fact, he still keeps his hand in at the scorer’s table as the official timer for FIT home basketball games.
Steve O’Neill’s knowledge and application of the rules, game management skills and keen insight into managing people at different levels and in different roles was well recognized by administrators, athletic directors, coaches, fans, players and his fellow officials, has set him apart as the epitome of what an official should be, and has placed him firmly into the distinguished ranks of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
FOR INFORMATION OR TO SUBMIT A NOMINATION to the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
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