The South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame is dedicated to the preservation, documentation and display of South Dakota's sports history.

Pal Christensen



 A lifelong Yankton resident, Christensen refereed high school and college football and basketball games in a career that spanned more than 50 years.

He reffed high school boys and girls basketball for 37 years and prep football for 50 years. He reffed his first football game Oct. 23, 1947, six days after his wedding, filling in for another official at a six-man game between Avon and Tabor.

Pal recalled: “The guys I worked with gave me a short talk on what to do when I was the head linesman –  ‘throw the flag on penalties, throw your hat to mark out of bounds and blow your whistle to stop play.’ The first play from scrimmage, a player lined up offside. I threw the flag and hat and blew the whistle. I was hooked.”

Christensen refereed in the North Central Conference - 27 years in basketball and 35 in football. He reffed in the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference even longer: 39 years.

He reffed at the first state girls basketball tourney as well as the first state football championships. He reffed the first football game at Howard Wood Field and the first college basketball game in the Sioux Falls Arena.

He once worked 22 basketball games in one eight-day period with long-time partner Don Anderson. He once worked four football games in four states in two days  - at Niobrara, Neb., Sioux Falls (Washington High), Southwest State in Marshall, Minn., and Westmar  College in Le Mars, Iowa. He reffed 6-, 8-, 9- and 11-man football. He worked games in eight conferences, and even did an occasional NCAA Division I game.  

“I worked over 6,000 athletic events and loved every minute of it,’’ said Christensen. “I never paid much attention to coaches, but I always made sure every kid playing, home or away, got a fair shot.”

He received the National Federation Interscholastic Officials Association Distinguished Service Award in 1991.




























« Back to Contributors