For 1 CEO, Friday Is Not The End Of Work Week

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For many CEOs, the job often involves acting as referee, whether it be between members of management, or between staff and members.

For Ron Collier, acting as a referee is also what he does when he's away from work.

Collier, a tried-and-true resident of the Hoosier state from grade school to Ball State University in Muncie, has risen from schoolteacher and baseball coach to CEO of $894-million Indiana Members Credit Union, which serves 90,000 members. He still loves to referee though-in this case, football games.

"I'm the ref on the crew and I'm the CEO at the credit union. There's a lot of parallels," he said.

Fresh out of Ball State in 1979, Collier had a bachelor's degree in social studies with a minor in physical education. After college, Collier spent two years teaching and became certified to officiate at football and baseball games, while also coaching the swim team. While he enjoyed teaching, Collier felt it was a good time to explore other careers while he was still young. The Indiana Credit Union League had recently created a job position for a training manager and Collier's teaching experience got him the job. Collier trained CU volunteers and employees throughout the Hoosier State using his coaching and education skills to good effect. In 1985, Collier took his training acumen to Indiana Members Credit Union.

"I would put our training up against anyone in the country," Collier said. "We have one goal: do something good for the members. As a team we do great here."

The credit union isn't the only team with which he has worked. For the past 19 years, he's continued to referee middle and high school fooball games.

"It's beautiful in Indiana in the fall," he said. "The kids are great and I get a little exercise. High school sports is pure fun for the kids."

Collier has plenty of stories from nearly 20 years of carrying a whistle and throwing flags. Only a few weeks ago, one of Collier's crew was simply run over by players, knocking him out of the game, breaking his leg and forcing knee surgery. Collier and his crew finished the fourth quarter with only four referees on the field. Several years ago, Collier himself was hit square in the nose by a football but he stayed on the field.

"It was so cold out, my eyes wouldn't stop watering," he said.

During one Friday-night game this season, Collier said two archrivals were set to play and brought nearly everyone they knew with them. Collier estimated 2,000 people showed up for the gridiron battle, more than the entire population of the little Indiana town in which it was played. "It was a big game in a small town," he said.

One team was winning 24-0 with less than five minutes to play. Then the other team started scoring almost at will, punching in three touchdowns in 191 seconds, with each two-point conversion attempt succeeding and tying the game at 24-24.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "Every time they scored, they had to get a conversion, which they did."

Collier said his attitude regarding penalties is firm but fair, with the most important aspect being a level playing field for all. If a player is interfering with a receiver but the ball is on the other side of the field, he might not throw a yellow flag. But he'll definitely mention it to the offending defender as soon as the play is over.

"If it's right where the ball is, you're going to call it every time," he said.

On the other hand, there are some plays that simply won't fly, no matter what the circumstance or how loudly a player protests. For example, a player piling on after the play is over or face-masking is going to see the yellow flag coming his way. Collier said on nearly every play someone from the sideline is yelling "Holding!" on the other team, which is often the most difficult call to judge.

"I've been at seminars lasting all day on holding," he said.

Collier and his present crew of referees have made the call every Friday night under the lights for five years now. At 49, Collier said he has plenty of fall Indiana games yet to referee, adding that his mentor called games until he was 66 years old. Collier said being CEO and head official is essentially the same, as both involve dividing the workload, getting it all done (and done right), and the all-important ethic of teamwork.

"I can't do everything," he said. "Train, trust and depend on the other guy and allow them to do their jobs as a team."

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