By Rob Todor
Fred Vicarel, who served high school sports as an official for nearly 60 years, recently announced his retirement as Northeast Ohio District Officials Secretary.
Vicarel, whose day job was as bailiff for Common Please Court judge Peter C. Economus, estimated that he officiated or umpired over 3,000 games during his career.
Among those games were the first high school football game at Stambaugh Stadium, 20 Massillon-Canton McKinley games, seven state championship games and four Ohio North-South all-star contests.
He was also on the field for the first live television broadcast of a Youngstown high school game, between Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney, played at Rayen Stadium.
Vicarel was also a leader off the field, serving as president of the Youngstown Football Officials Association for three years and secretary for 15 years.
In 1982, Vicarel was elected as Northeast District Secretary, serving as liason between local associations and the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Vicarel started umpiring baseball and softball in 1948, then began a 40-year career in football officiating in 1954. He also worked basketball for 12 years in the 1960s and early ’70s.
“My sports mentor and friend, the late Mr. Mike Maro, encouraged me to get involved with the OHSAA,” said Vicarel. Maro was principal at Campbell Memorial High School.
“He recommended me to be appointed to the Ohio high school football rules committee in 1971, which I served on for three years.
“During my service, I proposed a rules change, that in order to protect kickers who were most vulnerable to injury, by making it an automatic first down for roughing the kicker.”
Vicarel also organized the first five-man football crew, with Dutch Miller, Mike Butch, Jack DeLucia and Manny Nunez.
“Following that, most local conferences adopted five-man crews for regular season games,” said Vicarel.
Vicarel also credited coaches like Don Bucci, Tony Napolet and Bob Commings with working closely with him and other officials to improve the game.
“Officials need to have family considerations, in order to spend so much time at games, meetings and clinics, and I would be remiss if I did not give my wife Rita a huge ‘thank you,”’ said Vicarel.
Towards the end of his on-field career, Vicarel was able to work games with his son John.
“The first night I told John not to call me ‘Dad’ on the field, but ‘Ref’ or ‘Fred,’” said Vicarel. “In the course of the game, as referee, I signaled for John — the head linesman — to move the chains, indicating it was a first down, but he never moved. After my repeated signals he came running to me and said, “Fred, or Ref, or Dad, it’s not a first down, you are looking at the rear marker.”
Vicarel said he will enjoy his retirement watching John officiate, as well as his grandson Jeffrey.
Vicarel is a member of the OHSAA Officials, Curbstone Coaches and East High School halls of fame.