March 15, 2002
CHICAGO (AP) - Melanie Davis became the first woman to referee a Division I men's NCAA tournament game.
Davis was part of the officiating crew Friday for the first-round game between San Diego State and Illinois in the East Regional.
"It is history-making," said Hank Nichols, the NCAA's national coordinator of men's basketball officiating. "But I wasn't thinking about that in terms when we did it."
Davis, who regularly works men's games in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, was chosen just as the other 95 tournament referees were, Nichols said.
Each conference ranks its referees based on their work during the season, and then submits the top ones to the NCAA to be considered for the tournament.
Davis was the SWAC's top-ranked referee, Nichols said. She also officiated the SWAC tournament championship game the past two seasons.
"She's No. 1, I'd seen her work, so there was no reason not to choose her," Nichols said. "It was a no-brainer."
In keeping with policy, the NCAA did not announce the referees before the tournament. So there was no fanfare as she walked onto the floor, with few people - if anyone - aware of the milestone.
"She's doing fine," Nichols said. "She knows where she's supposed to be and she's made good calls."
While Davis is the first woman to work an NCAA tournament game, she's not the first high-profile female referee. Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner were the first women to officiate regular-season games in a major U.S. professional sports league when they worked NBA games in the 1997-98 season.
Palmer broke the gender barrier on Oct. 30, 1997, and Kantner joined her five days later. Both are still NBA referees.