MONTICELLO — Joe Fakouri’s refereeing career began by pure accident.
“The very first job that I got (out of college) was with the Monticello school system,” Fakouri said. “And it was to organize an adult basketball league.
“Part of that responsibility was refereeing too. I guess I decided then, if I can referee wannabe has-beens, I might try the high-school level and see how it goes.”
Now, 34 years later, Fakouri will be inducted into the Arkansas Officials Association Hall of Fame on Friday at Homer Hall inside the Hot Springs Convention Center, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“It is very humbling, very gratifying and certainly unexpected,” Fakouri said. “… All of the above.”
Fakouri joins three other inductees — Richard Benson of Forrest City, Tony Smith of Des Arc and Carl Williams of Bono — as new AOA Hall members, all of whom are basketball officials.
Fakouri is inducted in just his first year of eligibility, usually it takes close to five or 10 years before the decision is made.
“It was fulfilling,” Fakouri said of his career. “It was gratifying to be able to stay in athletics as a nonexistent player and still be close to the game.
“That was the motivation more than anything. I just wanted to stay involved with the young people and athletics.”
During his career, Fakouri worked numerous regional and state tournaments, plus an overall championship in either 1989 or 1990 as well as an AHSCA All-Star game.
“I have assigned officials for the last 15 years for the 6A South and some of the other schools around here,” Fakouri said. “So I’m still involved with basketball, just not at the referee level.”
Fakouri said if there is one piece of advice he could give to up-and-coming officials, it would be to “start out small.”
“Work the smaller games and go to plenty of camps,” Fakouri said. “Back then (when I started), we didn’t have camps.
“I had the luxury of calling places like Parkdale, Portland, Rison and some other smaller schools.”
Fakouri said a lot of the young officials today don’t have the luxury of going into a smaller school and working up the classifications.
“But don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t really easy calling those games either,” Fakouri said.
For nearly 10 years, Fakouri called the Cleveland County Tournament — which included Woodlawn and Rison — and he said “that is a very hostile tournament.”
“It was a lot of fun and I had a lot of memories from those tournaments,” Fakouri said.
Fakouri, a native of Pine Bluff, was the starting quarterback for the Pine Bluff Zebras and went on to play both football and baseball at Arkansas-Monticello.
“Saturday afternoon is what it is all about,” Fakouri said of his time at UAM. “It didn’t matter what level it is at, as long as I could play.
“It was always something I wanted to do was play college ball.”
After graduating from UAM with a degree in physical education, Fakouri completed his master’s degree in educational administration at Arkansas. He later graduated from the Banking School of the South at Louisiana State.
Fakouri is now the vice president of lending at Commercial Bank and Trust in Monticello.
On July 28, Fakouri and his wife, Julie, will have been married for 40 years.
“That’s unheard of these days,” Fakouri said.
He and his wife have two children — Michael and Ann Mitchell. Michael is a doctor in Monticello and has a wife, Michelle Lucky, as well as three children.
Ann Mitchell lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband, Kent, and their two children.
“I am blessed,” Fakouri said. “I have a wife and family who has been sacrificed a lot.
“… They have been so supportive.”