Betsy Wilson, who as the head of umpires in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has been instrumental in at least two major field hockey rules improvements over the years, died this afternoon. She had been fighting cancer the last couple of years, and had not been at the scorer’s table as usual for the PIAA championships in 2015, but had attended the event.
Wilson was at the scorer’s table for the 1994 PIAA Class AAA final at Ursinus College when Emmaus (Pa.) set up a penalty corner against Newtown Council Rock (Pa.) in the final 10 seconds of play. The onus was on Emmaus to get the ball over the goal line before the clock expired, while Council Rock took its time to get its five players behind the goal line in hopes that the game would end.
The 1-Up off the stick of future U.S. national teamer Kristen McCann crossed the goal line with 0.7 seconds remaining on the clock. It’s not surprising, given Wilson’s history and influence, that a rule was instituted a few years later allowing teams to play out a penalty corner after the expiration of a half. It was an FIH rule that has permeated seamlessly to the rest of the world, and she would tell you that Council Rock-Emmaus game had something to do with it.
Wilson also was umpiring a field hockey game at Shippensburg State University in 1983 the same day that a boys’ soccer game between Bethlehem Freedom (Pa.) and Washington Trinity (Pa.) went into 16 overtime periods, 10 minutes each with two-minute breaks to change ends.
It was about a decade later when Wilson’s second major contribution would come to pass: reduced-side overtime. The 7-on-7 game opened up the pitch and created more scoring opportunities. Oddly enough, FIH never has picked up on reduced-player overtime and has scrapped extra time altogether in the last couple of years, going directly to the 8-second shootout for international matches.
Betsy Wilson had an influence in other athletic spheres. She was an assignor of officials, a rules interpreter, and an official in basketball, field hockey, and softball. She was also an activist for improving facilities and for improving umpires in her home district, PIAA District 11.
For four decades, she had an impact in every sport in which she had an influence as either an on-field or off-field official.
“Not only was she an educator, an athletic administrator and a very accomplished official,” Emmaus athletic director Dennis Ramella told The Allentown Morning Call last spring. “But she also has been one of the biggest advocates for girls interscholastic sports in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, and probably the nation.”