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New OVAC football commissioner has officiating background

As Doug Costain prepares to officiate this afternoon’s West Virginia Class AAA state championship game, he can’t help but to have some mixed emotions.

Costain — a Wheeling resident — will be putting on his white cap for the final time in a 23-year career. But, the 52-year old is more than excited about the new role he’s about to undertake.

Earlier this week, OVAC Executive Director Dirk DeCoy announced Costain had been formally hired as the new OVAC Football Commissioner.

“I am excited and anxious to join the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference in this role and hope to be an asset moving forward,” Costain said. “I appreciate Dirk DeCoy, the (hiring) committee for the process. I applaud the process.”

Costain, now the seventh football commissioner in OVAC history, is taking over for Dave Clutter, who resigned from the position last month after nine years.

“I’ve had some great predecessors,” Costain said. “Evan Reese, Don Zinni and Dave Clutter are all guys that I officiated under, while they were commissioner, and all three did a great job. If I can be anywhere near as good as those guys were, I will be happy.”

The football commissioner in the OVAC wears many hats in terms of dealing with the sport, but the chief responsibility lies in officiating. Costain will assign the officials for all OVAC varsity football games. But, it’s more than that for Costain. It’s a chance to give back.

“I grew up in the OVAC and I am excited to be part of the history and tradition of the conference,” Costain said. “I remember officiating, without a license when I was 17 years old because Ohio would let you do it as long as you worked with a licensed official. My career, both professionally and in officiating, led me to seek a position like this.”

One of the requirements of the position is that the commissioner isn’t an on-field official, which is why today’s game will be Costain’s finale.

“I am willing to give up being a referee because I really want to do (a job) like this,” Costain said. “If you wait four or five years, because you want to continue to officiate, who knows if the position would be available? I am not leaving officiating, but I am just joining in another capacity.”

Though the 2022 football season is still nine months from starting, Costain plans to hit the ground running.

Part of that process deals with increasing the number of officials, which isn’t just a problem in the OVAC, but nationwide. On top of finding new officials, retaining the newcomers is also a big part of the nation-wide challenge.

“That’s the biggest hurdle,” Costain said of retention. “There is obviously a deficiency in the numbers (of officials) and I would love to make that a priority.”

Costain believes that in a conference the size of the OVAC, finding new officials shouldn’t be as challenging as it’s become.

“If we were able to get one official, per school, per sport, each year we’d have 52 new bodies,” Costain said. “We need to have a bigger presence and improve the image of officiating a little bit.”

To do that, Costain plans to utilize social media and be more visible to the fans and coaches.

“It comes down to educating people,” Costain said. “I would love to get to the point where we’re able to answer questions and really help people to understand not only the rules, but what officiating is all about. We need to be more aggressive in those things.”

As it pertains to the assigning of officials, Costain plans to have “open dialogue” with the officials and the boards that work in the OVAC as well as utilize the ranking system.

“This isn’t a football official, assigner business,” Costain said. “It’s a people business and I pride myself on being a great communicator. I plan to have more dialogue with the crew chiefs and crew members in terms of why they may not have the ‘big’ game or what areas of improvement are needed. I want the officials to understand that we’re coming from a good place and we have the conference and their best interest in mind.”

Along with the state championship game assignment, Costain has officiated playoff games in both Ohio and West Virginia and served as the referee for the OVAC All-Star Game just a few summers ago.

Costain is a highly regarded basketball official, working at the collegiate level. He will continue to do that. He’s also a huge proponent of Ohio Valley baseball. He organizes the Pinto Challenge, held every summer in Wheeling, as well as Foundations Baseball and it’s catchers clinic, which will have its second annual event next month.

On top of Costain’s hiring, it was also announced that Sam “Chicken” Jones and Ricky Moore will serve as co-assistant commissioners and Butch Minkemyer will continue as development director.

“Titles mean nothing to me,” Costain said. “I want to approach it as a team effort.”

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