Area Officials Remember Fred

Jim Massar and Fred Briggs teamed up to officiate numerous high school basketball games for 43 years, but none came close to comparing to a wild Lansing Sexton-East Lansing game the duo called in the 1950s.

The contest at Sexton went into triple overtime before the Big Reds won.

While Massar and Briggs were in the locker room after the game, they received a visit from then-Michigan State basketball coach Pete Newell.

Before leaving, Newell, who is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the history of basketball, congratulated Massar and Briggs on the job they had done.

"He was the most respected coach in the collegiate world," Massar said of Newell. "For him to come in there was quite a compliment. It was a wonderful experience."

Briggs was recognized numerous times for his officiating during a career than spanned all or part of six decades. The Burton resident died Monday at the age of 90.

"He was an outstanding official," Massar said of his former partner. "He had a great feel for basketball. His judgment was in a class by itself."

The 1937 Central graduate first registered with the Michigan High School Athletic Association in 1941. For the next 64 years, he officiated basketball, football, baseball and softball.

He called two state championship games in basketball and one in football. He also officiated basketball at the junior college level and was a long-time referee in the City Basketball League.

In 1993, he became the second recipient of the MHSAA's Vern L. Norris award — which annually goes to an official with 20 or more years of registration with the MHSAA.

Besides officiating, Briggs also served as the commissioner/executive secretary for the Metro League and the Big Nine Conference. He helped organize the Michigan Open Basketball Tournament in Flint in 1945.

Briggs was a mentor to several officials, one of which was Flushing resident John Kirk, who was given his first basketball game by Briggs in late 1960s.

"He was a very dedicated person to high school athletics," said Kirk, who officiated for 34 years. "He brought extreme honesty. He was always calm and cool. He would evaluate things and then make a decision."

If Briggs wasn't working with Massar, he could usually be found on the hardcourt or the gridiron with his younger brother, Charlie Briggs.

The Briggs brothers called several games together with the majority of their time being spent in the Saginaw Valley Conference and the Big Nine.

According to Charlie Briggs, one of things that stands out about their time together are the players they got to see.

The athletes Charlie Briggs remembers the most are Owosso three-sport star Brad Van Pelt and Northwestern's Glen Rice and Mark Ingram.

"We were very fortunate to work the games we did," said Charlie Briggs, who will turn 86 on May 22. "We respected the coaches and the players. I don't think either one of us ever threw a guy out of a game."

In Loving Memory

Greater Flint Hall of Fame

The Briggs Brothers

When you speak of officiating, in Genesee County and the State of Michigan, it is inevitable that Fred and Charley Briggs names will be mentioned. They were the consummate referees. I had the honor of playing, coaching and hiring them during my life. It was always a pleasure and relief when they would walk onto the football field, basketball court or a baseball/softball diamond.

In my mind, I knew the game would be conducted in a professional manner and respect would be used by players, coaches and spectators. Everyone knew and respected them. They exhibited patience with players, understanding with coaches and exuded knowledge of the rules to spectators.

Fred and Charley were so well liked I had to hire them in an athletic capacity upon their retirement from officiating. They were placed in the position of working for the Athletic Department of Kearsley Schools. They not only were greeters of officials, worked in the press box and even had to be a fill in official in an emergency. Never a problem, they could do it all.

Kearsley Schools thought so much of the Briggs Boys that Fred was honored with a private program for his family on his retirement and Charley was honored as a Grand Marshall at homecoming.

It is only fitting that men of their stature be given the recognition of Hall of Fame Member. In my eyes they were always outstanding ambassadors for athletics.


Mickey Hamilton

Retired AD Kearsley High School, Holy Rosary High School

Fred Briggs Sports Legacy

MHSAA Vern L. Norris Award

Fred Briggs received the MHSAA Vern L. Norris Award in 1993.

The Vern L. Norris Award is presented to an athletic official with 20 or more years of registration with the MHSAA who works at the high school level. He or she must also have been active in a local officials' association, mentored other officials, and have been involved in officials education. It is named for Vern L. Norris, who was executive director of the MHSAA from 1978 to 1986.

GCCOA Jim Massar Award

Fred was awarded the GCCOA Jim Massar Award in 1987.