By Giuseppe Ungaro
Staff Writer
This seems to be the year of the female basketball official. Marcelyn Williams made history earlier this month when she became the first female official to work a boys state final game. Per, Williams was the lead official in New Providence’s Group I state championship win over Burlington City.
This past season, Carolyn Jackson, a former standout at Cumberland Regional, was the first female official to work the Battle by the Bay in Atlantic City in the tournament’s 30-year history. There is no question both are great achievements, but if you were wondering what took so long, there is some good news.
More women seemed to work boys varsity games this season in southern New Jersey, and even during girls games female officials are seen more and more. Although Williams, Jackson, and selective few seem to be the exception, there is hope the tide is turning.

Amanda Feldman, a 29-year-old official and former star at Pinelands Regional, is working her way up to the varsity level and says both male and female coaches have respected her efforts on the court. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)

“I think women should give it a try. Bottom line, if you can run, move up and down the court, and get in the right position, you can make the same call as a male official,” said Jackson, 54, who has been officiating for 10 years. “You do have to have tough skin, but any game you walk in on, depending on the coach and the atmosphere, you still have to have tough skin to take the abuse or whatever you want to call it. So I don’t think there should be any difference. Just like men can do women’s games, there shouldn’t be any difference for a woman doing a man’s game.”
Jackson’s Battle of the Bay experience featured Atlantic City and St. Augustine, led by legendary coaches Gene Allen and Paul Rodio. Not only are both coaches among the best in South Jersey, but both can be a little more than excitable on the sidelines. Allen not only approved of Jackson’s performance, but thinks it’s time to see other female officials working the boys games.
“We need to come out of the Stone Age. I don’t think that it matters one bit. All I want is for someone to officiate the game fairly, and gender never crossed my mind,” said Allen. “When I saw her, I knew she earned the respect of her colleagues to get a game like that. I thought she did an excellent job.”
Jackson and Williams are not the only ones who can do an excellent job. For more women to work boys games, they need to be given an opportunity. Female officials also have to be willing to not just work girls games.
Denise Crudup, 28, is not only able to work boys games, she is also willing. The former Howell standout is so passionate about officiating she gave up playing basketball and football, two sports she loves, because she is not willing to risk injury to miss any time as an official. Crudup not only did three regular-season basketball games, she also was found on the gridiron during the fall.

Janielle Bailey works a game during the Kiss Cancer Goodbye Tournament in early February. Female officials are getting more opportunities to work big games and tournaments, including boys showcase events. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)

“I wasn’t surprised that my assigners gave me boys games because I do football games. My assigner knows I can handle a boys game whether it’s football, basketball or any other sport,” Crudup said. “I can handle it. I think (my assigner) has faith in me and trusts that I will call a great game.”
Crudup, who would love to climb the ranks into the professional level in either sport, believes more women should make the move to do both boys and girls games, But also knows the assigners have to do their part.
“I think it will come with time. It depends on the officials. Some of the women may be in intimidated,” Crudup said. “I think it is both. You don’t want to send a female into any situation you think something could go wrong, or potentially go wrong.”
The coaches, players and fans will eventually get more accustomed to seeing women work boys games the more it happens. Female officials may get an odd look here and there now, but eventually it will not be a big deal.
Amanda Feldman, 29, a former star at Pinelands and former roommate of Crudup at Wilmington University (Del.), says she gets treated fairly when working junior varsity games, and hopes to make the jump to varsity.
“From what I’ve seen, the boys players are very respectful,” Feldman said. “They don’t give me attitude very often. They might not like a call, but they play through it. The coaches, I think, are tough on any official. I’ve personally never felt I was being attacked because I was a woman in a high school game.
She added, “(Coaches) hold me to the same standard. They want me to make the right calls, just like my fellow male officials.”