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A football-softball path for Hutcheson
Officiating in young Georgian’s blood at early age before finding UT, softball

Seeing your first college football game as a kid — exciting.

Getting your first good look at a college officiating crew in action — priceless — for Don Hutcheson.

“In 1959, my dad took me to see my first college football game, Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia,” said Hutcheson, a TSSAA referee for 25 years and CBFO Softball League commissioner, of Georgia’s home game versus SEC rival Auburn in November. “I was 11-years-old.

“I enjoyed the game [a late-game rally by UGA to win 14-13 led by eventual NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton] … probably one of the best college football games I’ve ever seen,” the Macon, Ga. native added.

“But something stood out to me more than the game itself — the officials. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea.”

Sparked by that first experience seeing officials operate in a huge setting, “My little brother and I would get out in our backyard, and we found us some striped shirts at the store, and we’d take a handkerchief and put it in our pocket as a flag, and get a whistle, and pretend there was a football game going on,” Hutcheson said. “We’d run around and throw our flags as opposed to playing.

“It was just something that intrigued me, appealed to me. I don’t know why, but it did.”

Hutcheson, a private banker with AmSouth/Regions Bank, will begin his 30th season this fall as a TSSAA football official, having joined the state high school governing body as an official in 1978.

“I became a referee in a full varsity crew in 1982,” Hutcheson said.

As for how the high school game has changed in 25 years, “The speed and size, it’s changed so much, especially the last 10 years,” Hutcheson said.

Having worked at least one TSSAA playoff game every year since 1985, Hutcheson, 58, has refereed two state championship games: 1997 Class 2A, Tyner versus Union City, and 2000 Class 4A, Maryville versus Memphis East.

Any thoughts of becoming a college referee? “Some people thought I would make a good S-E-C referee,” said Hutcheson, who had a chance to move up in the late 1980s after being invited to a weekend meeting with SEC officials in Birmingham, Ala. “But we had a 2-year-old and my wife [Cathy] was pregnant with twins. … Major college is a huge commitment, a lot of travel time.”

Though saying he had “people to help him” become an SEC official, Hutcheson added the process was “very political in those days.”

Among Hutcheson’s friends in the officiating fraternity is Rocky Goode of Knox County, well-known SEC referee. “Rocky and I worked in a junior high crew, it was my first year in the association [1978],” Hutcheson said. “Rocky and I are good friends today.”

Among close TSSAA colleagues is Glenn Walker, a line judge who’s been a member of Hutcheson’s crew all 25 years.

First coming to East Tennessee as a UT student in the late 1960s, Hutcheson said he’ll likely referee “one or two or three more years, I don’t know. I’m getting on the bubble.”


A back-up defensive back who also was the placekicker at Lanier High School in Macon, Hutcheson’s most remembered playing moment was one he may wish to forget from the 1964 season as a junior.

His last-second, game-winning field goal attempt to beat rival Willingham sailed barely wide, losing 7-6.

And guess what? The officials probably blew it.

“I thought it was good, so did the paper the next day,” said Hutcheson, who made two field goals earlier in that game. “I should have hit it straighter.”


“I grew up loving Georgia Bulldog football ’till I came to The University of Tennessee, now I’m a Vol all the way,” said Hutcheson, who first came to the area preparing to enter UT after attending LaGrange College (Ga.). He graduated with a business degree in 1970.

Why not UGA? “Maybe I wanted to be a little different — everybody went to Georgia — I was a little bit of a rebel in some ways,” Hutcheson said. “I considered Georgia, I considered L-S-U, I considered Auburn.

“I spent close to two years looking at different places, and chose Tennessee — and never left.”

Hutcheson said one factor drawing him to the area was “the mountains, we don’t have any down there [in Macon area]. The family, every other year when I was a child, would come up here. … I always loved the mountains.”

As opposed to enjoying mountain-type recreation, “I just like to look at ’em,” Hutcheson said. “We live on a ridge and we can see the Smokies. From my office window I can look out and see the Smokies sitting up on Bearden Hill.”


Presenting the CBFO board with “a plan” that was approved in 2000 when Hutcheson became commissioner, “We’ve tried to create a place very similar to what we had when I grew up in Macon,” he said. “Trying to make this a place where you not only play softball, but you come and kinda experience a little bit of a Major League ballpark” at both league fields.

“We play a lot of organ music, the National Anthem before every game.”

Most recent facility upgrades for the 5-to-19 age league and its two fields include new electronic scoreboards and concrete-floored dugouts and concrete paths leading from each dugout around the new, enclosed, air-conditioned pressboxes.

A third-field just east of the “13-to-18 League” field adjacent to the parking lot should be ready for regular season play “probably” in 2009, Hutcheson said. The field is currently used for practice.

Hutcheson praised Everette Sinor, superintendent of Knox County Parks and Recreation. “Without him, a lot of this would have never happened,” he said. “He’s been wonderful to work with us and provide things that we couldn’t do financially.”

In addition to county assistance plus spending more than $13,000 of its own money, CBFO received help from corporate backing, Hutcheson said, while construction assistance came from Brian Schwarz of Integrity Remodeling.

“He’s donated a lot of time and energy to building these buildings,” the commissioner said of Schwarz. Hutcheson also recognized Mike West, chairman of CBFO Softball’s executive committee. “He’s my right-hand man.”

Not to be forgotten among key volunteers is Cathy. “She is here every night with me,” the commissioner said of his wife. “She spends a lot of time working in the concession stand.”

During league play, mid-April through mid-June, Hutcheson said he spends an average of “50 hours” on CBFO Softball-related matters.

“This is not work — this is fun,” he said. “It is exciting to watch this become what it’s become. We had 396 girls playing this year. In 2000 we had 154, almost tripled the size of the program.”

Hutcheson’s three daughters have all experienced CBFO softball. Twin 18-year-old daughters, Leah and Leeann — members of the 13-to-18 league runner-up Padres — are rising sophomores at Pellissippi State.

Oldest daughter, Laura, 21, is a rising senior at UT.


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