Originally created 02/20/00

Athletic family highlighted



For Keven Mack, bragging rights and civil rights were won during a high school basketball game in 1968.

Local news reported Lucy C. Laney High School's triumph after Mr. Mack scored the winning points during that year's Jan. 2 face-off with Academy of Richmond County High School's varsity team.

But Mr. Mack -- now a 49-year-old NFL referee and director of Augusta's community development office -- recalls an additional victory gained that night. That was the first time his historically black high school played what was then the predominantly white Richmond Academy school -- four years before the U.S. District Court ordered public school integration in Augusta by forced busing.

Today, as Mr. Mack's 17-year-old son -- also named Keven -- hustles on the Richmond Academy court as one of the school's varsity forwards, many of the dreams of his father's high school years are realized.

"With black and white kids on the team, what started to happen was that everybody began to understand each other," Mr. Mack said. "They console each other."

For their journeys as black athletes, the father-son pair will be features on ESPN's Scholastic Sports America. In Augusta, the TV show will air at 1 p.m. Monday.

"I'm proud of them," said Regina Mack of her husband and their son. And understandably so.

The usually quiet, contained demeanor of the two Kevens is no indication of their aggressiveness.

For the past three football seasons, Mr. Mack has officiated NFL games in the United States and Europe on the weekends and worked as a county department head during the week. This followed a seven-year stint as a referee for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"It is one of my goals to ref a Super Bowl game," said Mr. Mack, who has one NFL playoff game under his belt.

Young Keven is quick to say that his father's ties to sports sparked his initial interest. He already has a 10-trophy collection -- most of which he earned in soccer and swimming -- sports he started when he was 5.

A junior, he also is a member of his high school track and basketball teams.

"During the football season, he would be going in one direction and I would be going in the other direction. I would call home on Saturday night to find out how he did," his father said.

A native Augustan who grew up on Linden Street downtown, Mr. Mack witnessed changes in local sports that ended in the ethnically diverse teams that his son is now a part of.

Mr. Mack easily remembers the "separate but equal" schools, teams and even the refs.

"The leagues were segregated," he said, adding that referee leagues didn't merge until the early 1970s. From the start, he said, it was his dream to officiate the game -- not execute plays.

"One of the things that I have observed -- and this is the thing that really got me involved in officiating -- is how kids react in pressure situations, when you call a foul on them," he said. "It tells you something about that kid as to how they will react in life, if they are in a board room. When things are against them, will they blow up, lose their character or will they regroup and be professional?"

Pushing academics in front of sports, Mr. Mack said it is not his dream to see his son turn professional, though it is indeed Keven's.

The two part ways on other issues. In their bond is a splinter of rivalry.

"The last time I played him basketball in the back yard was four or five years ago," Mr. Mack said. "I beat him, and I knew he was coming up, so I just stopped playing. He won't ever beat his daddy."

"He is just scared to play me now," Keven said. "He knows that I'll dominate him, dunk on him and stuff."

Reach Clarissa J. Walker at (706) 828-3851.