PVAMU GREAT FRED NEWHOUSE NAMED TO USATF OFFICIALS HALL OF FAME
PRAIRIE VIEW – Prairie View A&M legend Fred Newhouse seems to like doing things in pairs.
Case in point: In 1971, Newhouse won gold and silver medals at the Pan American Games in the men’s 4x400 meter relay and 400-meter dash, respectively. He then repeated the feat at the 1976 Olympics.
Now, the two-time PVAMU Sports Hall of Famer has another distinction to add to his ledger.
Already a member of the Texas Track and Field Hall of Fame, Newhouse recently earned induction into the USA Track and Field Officials Hall of Fame.
“I was elated, highly excited… you name it. This is an honor that isn’t given out lightly. At most, I think only five or six people are selected every year,” Newhouse said. “Most people who are selected have been officiating 30, 40, or even 50 years. They’ve officiated Olympic Games and are recognized on an international level. It’s a very, very elite group of people who get selected to the USATF Officials Hall of Fame, and I’m honored to be a part of it. It’s a tough hall of fame to get into, and there’s a lot of officials out there who are worthy of being in this hall of fame. Hopefully, one day they too are selected.”
Newhouse’s latest accolade is a small slice of the illustrious career he’s had in track and field. Competitively, he’s been a national champion and an All-American, and he’s been regarded as one of the top sprinters of his time.
After hanging up the cleats, Newhouse sought to give as much as he could back to a sport that had provided him so many unforgettable moments.
“I wanted to stay involved after my competitive days came to a close, and I enjoyed the sport,” Newhouse said. “When I first retired from running, I became an active athlete advocate and helped get the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 passed, which changed amateur sports in the U.S. I ended up becoming an advocate for athletes within USA Track and Field and the United States Olympic Committee for about 10 years. I really enjoyed that, but you can only be an athlete for so long.”
Newhouse ultimately recognized that perhaps there was too great of a generational gap between himself and the younger athletes he worked alongside during the 1980s. Still itching to contribute to the sport of track and field, he went on the make an inquiry about becoming an official.
Newhouse’s initial foray into that realm started with the Prairie View Relays and the Texas Southern Relays as well as meets at high schools across the state of Texas. The rest was history.
Coincidentally enough, it’s a fitting descriptor for the officiating career Newhouse has carved out for himself – one he continues to add to through this day.
After plying his craft in Texas and California, Newhouse was appointed the U.S. National Team Leader for the 2000 Olympics. The opportunity led to a conversation with Bubba Thornton, then-head coach of the University of Texas track and field team.
From that talk, Newhouse ultimately became the first black official to in the history of the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, which is the second-largest track meet in the country behind the Penn Relays.
“Bubba said that he wanted my help to ensure fairness during competition and he felt I could bring a lot to the event,” Newhouse said. “I was honored by that sentiment. At the time I didn’t know I’d be the first black referee for the Texas Relays. That was in 2004, and now I’m still the head referee for the event. I enjoy officiating and I’ve missed it immensely during this pandemic. I enjoy seeing great performances out of the athletes. Nothing tops that. I also enjoy ensuring fairness. That’s the role of the referee. Officials make calls, referees ensure fairness.”
Newhouse’s work at the Texas Relays started drawing the attention of the University Interscholastic League, which approached him about officiating its state championship meets. Newhouse obliged, of course, adding another feather to the cap as he was the first black referee for the UIL as well.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Newhouse said. “The life of a referee is very short. Even when you think you’ve made the right call, some coaches may not agree with you. I’ve made some controversial calls, and yes, I have disappointed a few coaches. Over the course of time, I believe 99 percent of them knew they could not doubt my fairness. At the end of each meet, coaches are surveyed about the officiating, and the organizations always ask me to come back.”
Newhouse has since become the head running referee for every U.S. Olympic Trials event since 2008 and has officiated conference meets, NCAA Championships and some of the top international events in the sport.
He’s officiated just about every meet there is to officiate, except one.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to officiate a SWAC Track and Field Championship,” Newhouse said. “It’s absolutely something I would love to do. The SWAC is my conference and hopefully one day, they’ll consider me.”
With all that Newhouse has accomplished, he’s not one to bask in the glory of an accolade for too long. Ever the humble sort, Newhouse sees his latest accomplish in the same vein as his others: the opportunity to use his gifts as ordained from above.
“God has been so good to me. When I’m selected to anything or I receive an award, I just see it as recognition that I was doing my best to do His work,” Newhouse said. “It’s His way of recognizing me in some small fashion. My goal is just to continue to do God’s work in whatever role He puts me in. If I get recognized for it, that’s fantastic. If not, that’s OK, too.”