Spotlight: Recreational Sports referee, employee
is free-throw champ

Campus free-throw legend David Rigan has made more than 100 straight basketball free-throws in practice three times, and once won an all-campus free-throw championship with 95 out of 100.

"I stumbled on what I would say is a methodical way of practicing," he says, in the 1970s. "It's a philosophical thing. You want to make it simple as possible mechanically. You bounce the ball a little bit and you shoot. The whole trick is you want to make the same movement every time."
(Photo by Austin Thomason, U-M Photo Services)

As a referee for Intramural Sports and an employee at the Central Campus Recreational Building, which is operated by Recreational Sports, Rigan says, "It gives me a sense of pride in doing something well, a sense of duty."

That desire to do things well drives his approach to jobs and interests, including refereeing, his work at CCRB, his interest in history and his sports participation, especially free-throw shooting.

"There was a guy, Gus Mermigas; he ran Frank's Restaurant. He said 'I love what I do and I want everybody to know it' and I believe in that. The first place I ever learned that was umpiring."

Rigan first worked as a softball umpire as a U-M undergraduate in the late 1960s. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in history in 1970 and a master's degree in elementary education in 1973. After working as a substitute teacher for four years, he found more permanent work in 1975 in the sports department at the Ann Arbor News. "I did virtually everything," he says, from high school and college sports to typing bowling scores.

After losing his job in 1991 in a management change, Rigan took a year-and-a-half off. "It's probably the most reading I ever did in my whole life," he says, adding most books were on history. Rigan became intrigued by women's history. "You see books on famous male figures, but I wanted to know more about women in history."

His interest led him to the film "Iron jawed Angels," about Alice Paul and other women activists around the time of World War I. "I think its an absolute shame she's not a household name like George Washington," Rigan says. "She is an absolute heroic figure to get that 19th Amendment (women's suffrage) passed."

A long-time umpire for city softball leagues, in 1993 Rigan began refereeing intramural sports. He observed that it's important to respect women who participate. "There would be times when a soccer team was not letting women have the ball," Rigan says. "I told the captain 'This is co-rec,' and they should let them play as well as the guys. It's just a sense of justice and fairness."

Rigan says new referees should enjoy the experience. "Knowledge of the sport is important, you learn it by doing it. It's very important to go to the clinics. My absolute cardinal rule is not to let anything get personal; don't allow your self to dislike anyone. Your mission is to make things fair for everybody, don't lose sight of that because a person or group of people is giving you a problem."

On a typical day working at the CCRB, Rigan distributes towels and replaces cleaning materials in workout areas, and answers questions from staff, faculty and students using the facility.

Rigan is working with Recreational Sports on a project to create a book on the 100th anniversary in 2013 of the intramural program. He is helping with the writing and editing.

The book is intended to read like a people's history, with interviews from participants including Red Berenson, Michigan hockey coach. "He said intramurals was a great way to meet people and know a lot more about what happens on campus outside of the hockey team."

Rigan says he likes seeing people walk into the gym. "It just shows a good attitude, an attitude of social interaction, a desire to be with other people doing something positive."

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.