Bob Kayajanian the road to officiating greatness  (Part 2)

Bob Kayajanian

Jess Gonzalez

March 14, 2024 – With his officiating abilities in continual step-climbing mode, in 1984 Bob had been officiating college sports for three years. That’s when he met Don Wilson at an off-season West Coast Football Officials Clinic in Southern California. Wilson was assigner for the newly organized America West Conference. Impressed by Bob and his group of officials due to their knowledge, commitment, and willingness to improve their officiating, Wilson immediately assigned them to work football games in the new conference. Officiating basketball would soon follow.

Climbing to the top of the mountain

With Wilson solidly behind him, Bob soon became a Division I football official. In a few years, he had gone from officiating intramural sports in junior high to the pinnacle of amateur sports officiating in our country—reaching heights he never imagined!

In 1989, Bob lived one of the highlights of his officiating career. Wilson called wanting him to represent the America West Conference as an official in the Potato Bowl in Bakersfield.  His work ethic and determination were rewarding him for his dedication to his officiating career.  Twenty-one years before, he had been team manager with the Fresno City College football team that played at the Potato Bowl.  Now, he would officiate that post-season game. Overcome with emotion, Bob walked out of his house and looked up toward heaven. With tears in his eyes, he thanked God for his good fortune. In a career that would last over 60 years over a span of seven decades, that was special. In fact, he loved officiating. But nothing in life lasts forever…

Sports Association leader

In 2002, injuries led to Bob’s early retirement from officiating. But he stayed in the game by  becoming an instructional leader of basketball camps in Las Vegas. That’s what he was doing when, in 2003, he was asked to interview for the head job of the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association. He didn’t get it, but 7 years later, he did. He led the SJVOA for 13 years. He then became assigner for women’s basketball in the Central Valley Conference.

Based on his reputation for getting things done, in 2021 Bob was persuaded to return to heading an area officials’ association. The Central Section Officials Service Assistance has 128 officials and works with 10 high schools, 34 middle schools, and 15 elementary schools. He also trains people to conduct  sporting events at Fresno State and Fresno Pacific.

Bob’s impact on Central Valley sports

Bob Kayajanian has impacted the Central California sports scene by doing things his way. A serious childhood injury prohibited his participation in sports, but he was far from finished. His resolve, strength of character, as well as his drive and creativeness pushed him to constantly prepare himself to walk onto many a field of play. His knowledge of sports, integrity, honesty, respect, and hard work impacted not only players and coaches; it continues to impact officials and the games. At 76 years, he is not thinking about retirement. He continues training officials. He likes to tell them to always officiate their best—regardless of the level of competition!

Today in Central California, Bob is a highly respected individual because of what he stands for and all he has given our community that goes beyond the world of sports. People who have known and seen him in action over the years were glad to tell us about him.

Allen Huddleston
Coached basketball at Merced Junior College for 28 years—23 as the head coach

“One of the best things about Bob—that is missing in many officials today—was his ability to connect with a coach. He hustled, was always in position, and was always open to talk to the coach. He always had a good explanation for his calls. If it happened, he would admit missing a call. He set a very high bar for excellence in officiating!”

Dara Johnson
Hoover High School Athletic Director, ex multi-sport athlete at Fresno Pacific

“As a player, I remember Bob, as an official, being instructive on how we could play better. It wasn’t coaching, just helping us to be better. He has always been a large positive side of athletics. He understands and lives the positive—always there to help. That’s always been Bob—as a teacher, coach, and official. He’s an amazing athletic pillar to our athletic world!”

Stephen Mintz
Ex basketball official, scorer’s table official

“He’s always worked hard, getting to the game early, staying late. Very thorough; he knows the rules better than anyone. When he took over the officials’ association, he knew it needed change and, though some people resisted, he changed basketball officiating for the better. He found a way to implement the use of three officials. He is not quick to judgment and supports his officials. He believes officiating is not just about sports—it’s also about the camaraderie of officials.”

Moments lived, accomplishments attained—too numerous to list

It is easily understood that over his extensive career as a multi-sports official Bob lived many special moments and achieved countless highlights in his exciting career. Here are a few of them…

  • Officiated 13 consecutive football bowl games
  • Officiated 2 NCAA Regional Basketball Tournaments
  • Became the first, and is still the only official, to officiate Division I football and basketball in the same year—did it from 1984–1987
  • Officiated a bowl game he participated in
  • Assisted in development of Basketball Section Finals held in Selland Arena
  • Officiated the first Clovis vs Clovis West game
  • As a sports officiating teacher and mentor, Bob helped guide one of his students into officiate in the NBA
  • Presently, six Division I college football officials are his former pupils; two of them have worked the national championship games

In his own way, Bob has made Central California a better and more exciting place to live; a place to enjoy the wonderful world of sports. Without doubt, thousands of area residents have been positively impacted by what Bob Kayajanian has been doing for so many years. He deserves big thanks!