SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — Roger Ayers, whose name often draws the ire of college basketball fans, is looking forward to seeing those fans back in the stands in a few weeks.
“Last year it felt like a scrimmage. It felt like it wasn’t the same,” Ayers said. “Fans are a big part of college basketball. They get me up and they get me excited to go back out there and do my job.”
The veteran referee and Roanoke-native is coming off a challenging year affected by the pandemic that ended with him contracting the virus.
Ayers told his story to the Roanoke Valley Sports Club Monday night in Salem, recounting how he found out he tested positive for COVID-19 just days before the NCAA tournament. The diagnosis ended his season and broke a 17-year streak of working the Big Dance.
He says the hardest part was telling five of his colleagues that their respective seasons were over too because of contact tracing after they had dinner together the night before.
Months later, Ayers says the experience added perspective on life.
“It’s taken me back to maybe slow down and enjoy a little bit more. Every game is important,” Ayers said. “I open up November 9th, that’s the first day of the regular season. I’m excited to get back out there. But I’ll worry about November 10th when it gets here. Or November 11th when it gets here. Just to slow down and enjoy it a little more.”
And yes, Ayers says he can’t wait for the fans to boo and cuss at the referees. It was something he missed last year.