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Tiara “T” Cruse ’06

NCAA and WNBA Referee

Major: {{https://www.wm.edu/as/kinesiology/,Kinesiology}}

A former William & Mary basketball player, referee Tiara “T” Cruse ’06 is a frequent presence at high-visibility NCAA and WNBA games. She is also an advocate for equal treatment of women and more equitable pay in collegiate and professional sports, and a role model for current student-athletes. Tiara maintains ties with her former W&M teammates and enjoys talking to current basketball players about topics such as financial literacy.

At first, officiating basketball games was a way for her to earn money during breaks while she was attending William & Mary. After graduating, while working as a commercial real estate market analyst, she continued to referee at high school and college basketball games, moving from NCAA Division III to Division I and then to the NBA G League and WNBA. Eventually, her schedule as a referee became so demanding that she decided to make officiating her full-time career. While pursuing a master’s degree in sports management at Columbia University, she joined a small group of WNBA referees in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for the National Basketball Referee Association, comprising NBA, WNBA and NBA G League referees.

On the court, Tiara is known for her calm, confident demeanor. “She’s really stoic and I think you have to be that way to be a good official,” says her former W&M basketball coach, Debbie Taylor ’86. “You have to have tough skin. You can’t be reactionary.”

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Photo ©Max S. Gerber