MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Like the other referees selected for the 2020 Class of the Alabama Sports Officials Foundation Hall of Fame, Mark Jones was surprised to learn of the honor.
“I’m very honored and it’s great to be recognized,” said Jones. “People always ask me what sport I like officiating the best, and I always say the one in season, or what’s been the biggest game you’ve ever worked, and I said, the one I’m working right now.”
Jones joins four other officials from Central and South Alabama in this year’s class. He officiated high school basketball, football and baseball during his career spending eight years officiating women’s basketball in the NCAA as well.
After building a 42-year career as a referee, he’s now instrumental in the continued growth of sports in the state. He became the Alabama High School Athletic Association Director of Officials in 2016 after serving for more than three decades in various leadership roles at Jacksonville State University, including teaching sports officiating. He was part of the push to add instant reply to high school football.
“We’ve got it passed to where it’s playoffs now, but we’d love to get it where it’s used in the regular season,” Jones said.
According to AHSAAA, Jones was a founding member of the Mt. Cheaha Basketball Officials Association and the Coosa Valley Officials Association. He was also an AHSAA District Director for eight years, a football instructor for 14 years and was selected AHSAA State Football Official of the Year in 2001. He served as a referee in the 1997 Super 6 Class 5A finals and again in 2006 in the 6A championship game.
Jones now serves on the NFHS National Football Rules Committee and spends much of his time training the newest officials ready to make a difference on the ball field. However his time in the stripes have taught him more than just how to blow the whistle, or throw a flag.
“The officials always have to be the calm in the middle of the storm to settle the waters a little bit, but learning how to work with people has been great for me,” said Jones. “You also learn that there’s a lot of different people in the world, and I also learned the difference between equal and fair. You can’t treat everyone equal, but you can treat them fairly.”
While he enjoys every game he covers, Jones says one of his favorite memories is officiating at Legion Field. However, the thing he holds closest is friends he’s made along the way.
“I have been very blessed to have had that opportunity to learn from so many great people in my lifetime,” said Jones.
And even as his name is lifted into the rafters of the Hall of Fame, his goal is to always improve.
“I always tell officials our goal is that perfect game, and we all know that is an unobtainable goal," he said. "But, we continue to work towards that goal. That’s the biggest thing.”