Ann Adamchik, a pioneering Long Island girls and women’s sports official who refereed the first women’s basketball game played at Madison Square Garden, died Feb. 11 at her home in Manorville. She was 84.
Her son, Walter Adamchik of Raleigh, North Carolina, confirmed her death and said she had been in poor health for several years.
Adamchik became a familiar figure in school gyms across Long Island in the 1960s, refereeing for Catholic Youth Organization leagues for $2.25 a game. By 1973, when Title IX legislation expanded opportunities for women and girls in sports, new work led to high school and college games at schools including Adelphi University and Hofstra University.
It also led to her participation in the famous Feb. 22, 1975, Garden game between powerhouses Queens College and Immaculata College. Much of the newspaper coverage on that game dwelled more on the fact that 11,969 fans paid to watch women’s basketball than on the actual game action, which ended with a 65-61 Immaculata win.
Adamchik was paid $50 for the game; Mickey Crowley, who worked alongside her coordinating officials for Nassau County’s Section VIII and officiated men’s NCAA games, recalled last week that he was paid $250 for men’s regular-season games.
The pay disparity drew only passing mention in an admiring 1975 profile of Adamchik in Referee Magazine.
“I was happy and proud to be the first woman in the Garden,” Adamchik told Referee. “Excited even. But once the ball was thrown up, it was just like any other ballgame.”
Adamchik was born Ann West on Oct. 18, 1931, in Manhasset to Ann West, a public school custodian, and Alfred West, property manager for a Long Island estate. She graduated Bayside High School, where she ran track and played basketball, and worked for a telephone company, initially as a clerk but later as a representative and founder of a company sports program.
She married Bill Adamchik, a construction worker, in 1954, and stopped working full time to raise the couple’s sons, Walter and Bill.
“We were a blue-collar family,” Walter Adamchik recalled. Refereeing allowed her to work afternoons and nights, when the boys’ father was home, and return in time to tuck them in for bed.
It also allowed her to indulge a passion for sports both adults shared, Walter said. “I remember my father and her talking about rules, the mechanics and situations you’d get into. She’d come home and debrief him on a game. They would experience and share this together.”
According to family, Adamchik was invited to referee women’s basketball at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow but did not make the trip because of the U.S. boycott. After retiring from refereeing in the 1980s, Adamchik served as assistant executive director of Section VIII.
Adamchik mentored other officials including Port Jefferson’s Phyllis Deveney, who met her when the two worked a CYO game decades ago at the St. Kilian parish gym in Farmingdale.
Deveney went on to officiate NCAA Division I and playoff games before crowds that dwarfed the turnout for that 1975 game at the Garden.
“I called her to tell her when I was selected for the NCAA,” Deveney said.
Adamchik is survived by her son, Walter and a brother Al West of Boca Raton, Florida. She was predeceased by her husband and their other son.
A funeral service was held at Sinnickson’s Moriches Funeral Home on Feb. 15, and she was buried at Calverton National Cemetery. .