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NCAA basketball official Ed Hightower announces retirement after 2013-14 season

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The referee who has always hated your favorite team is finally calling it quits after 31 years of officiating.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Legendary college basketball referee Ed Hightower told a Michigan State radio program Tuesday that he is retiring after the 2013-14 season, according to a tweet from the program's host:

Hightower, known by the few who liked him as a showman and the many who could not stand him as the preening referee who hated their favorite team, refereed his first Big Ten game in the 1981-82 season at the age of 28. For the next 31 seasons, Hightower was a mainstay of Big Ten, Big East, Big 8/12, and Missouri Valley Conference basketball. He called 12 Final Fours during that time. Hightower won the 1992 Naismith Award as Division I college basketball's best official. An Illinois native and resident, Hightower was selected for the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998.

Hightower has always been known to have a flair for the dramatic -- even when no drama exists. His theatrical foul calls came frequently; his crews called more fouls than most, though his number of calls has dropped slightly in recent seasons. As he has entered his late 50s, Hightower has called fewer games and stayed closer to his southern Illinois home. As he told Spartan Nation last month:

I've been around a long time. So I realize I don't run as fast as I used to, I realize that my time is getting near, I'm gonna fade away. But the moment that I stop being able to enjoy the game and make a contribution toward the betterment of the game, then I wanna walk away.

Hightower holds three degrees from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a doctorate in education from St. Louis University. He is the superintendent at Edwardsville District Seven Schools.