Darrell "Bozo" Wincek

September 25, 1939 - September 28, 2021

This page is dedicated to the memory of one of the founding fathers of Gopher State Officials Association, Darrell "Bozo" Wincek. For nearly 60 years from its inception in 1963, Bozo was dedicated to Gopher State Officials.

He was beloved for his contributions to officiating, to high school sports, to his community, and to his family, and because he was a great man who always put others before himself. He will be dearly missed.





Bozo Named 2022 Minnesota Football Coaches Association

Tom Mahoney Man of the Year

The Minnesota Football Coaches Association named Bozo their 2022 Tom Mahoney Man of the Year at their annual Clinic on April 1, 2022. Click on the images below from the program to read the description of Bozo and how the MFCA felt about his impact on the game of football in Minnesota.

KARE 11 Prep Sports Extra tribute to Bozo Wincek on October 1, 2021

Bozo's Far-Reaching Contributions to

Gopher State, the MSHSL, and his Community

Bozo was a great man, an awesome man, a man of great character, purpose, and passion, as well as a true friend. Bozo (Darrell) Wincek sadly passed away on September 28, 2021 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Darrell was born in Minneapolis on September 25, 1939. He attended Minneapolis Vocational High School where he lettered in baseball and basketball for three years and graduated in 1957. After high school, he played amateur sports of baseball, basketball, fast and slow pitch softball, and touch football. He also played on state tournament winning teams in basketball, fast pitch and slow pitch softball, and touch football. He began his officiating career in 1958, was one of six founding members of Gopher State Officials in 1963, and said he officiated more than 50,000 games over his career.

Bozo took the reigns as the leader of Gopher State from Don Bertek when Don retired in 1997. Bozo has been the Secretary for Gopher State Officials Association ever since. Bozo has been the Gopher State assigner at one time or another in four sports: football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball, and softball. There is a current roster of 481 registered Gopher State Officials, making Gopher State one of the largest official’s associations in the upper Midwest.

Bozo was active right to the end for Gopher State working on scheduling Section Football Officials as recently as the weekend of September 25-26. He dedicated his life to service and was fully invested in serving schools, coaches, officials, Activity Directors, and the MSHSL. Most importantly, high school student-athletes in the State of Minnesota were the winners. Bozo was a proud father-figure to all Gopher officials. He watched - and offered suggestions for improvement - to officials who officiated football, basketball, baseball, and softball games.

Bucky Mieras, Orono High School Activities Director said, “Bozo has been a true champion for MSHSL activities. He has been a huge part of so many lives by supporting and creating lifelong memories through participation. Bozo has demonstrated the values of sportsmanship and he spent countless hours teaching officials and communicating with coaches and AD’s the importance of creating an optimal learning experience. Bozo has excelled for students and teams throughout Minnesota and he will be greatly missed.”

Bozo’s family was extremely important to him, and he cared deeply about them. Karen and Bozo were married in 1963. Bozo said, “I couldn’t have accomplished all the good things in Gopher or been able to receive individual and association awards without Karen’s help.” Karen and Bozo have three wonderful children: Jacki, Michelle, and Michael, as well as two fantastic grandchildren Nicole and Jessica.

While he was proud of the Gopher State officials, he was even more proud watching his own two daughters (Michelle and Jacki) officiate adaptive sports for MSHSL. He loved to talk bowling as well. His son Michael is a very good bowler, having bowled 300 on more than one occasion.

The night before he passed, Bozo told his daughter Jacki when she asked if she should officiate tonight? Bozo said, “Don’t cancel and say hi to the AD for me.” That was Bozo – always thinking about service and about others. He was a true servant leader and a shining example to all of us on how we should aspire to lead our lives - with honesty, character, friendship, and humility.

Bozo was also active in his church and with city recreation official’s assignments. Additionally, he organized and maintained a group of NE Mpls. athletes and officials called the “East Side Old-Timers”. He was also an active member of the Fraternal Order of the Polish Eagles.

Bozo has been fully dedicated to serving schools, coaches, officials, Activity Directors, the MSHSL, and most importantly...the student-athletes in the great State of Minnesota.

Highlights of Bozo's Officiating Career

1951 - Bozo was the batboy for his father’s fast-pitch softball team. They would often scrimmage teams where no umpire was assigned. His father’s team asked him to umpire. Bozo did so by standing behind the pitcher. Therefore, at the age of 12 the officiating career of Darrell “Bozo” Wincek was born.

1958 - Bozo began officiating MSHSL Baseball. He officiated MSHSL Baseball for 42 years from 1958-2000.

1960 - Bozo began officiating MSHSL Basketball (boys first, later girls). He officiated MSHSL Basketball for 50 years from 1960-2010.

1963 - Bozo umpired the first ever Gopher assigned game. It was a baseball game, Delano vs Watertown.

1965 - Bozo was asked to be the Umpire in Chief and assigner for the greater Crystal area baseball, and later softball, association.

1966 - Bozo began officiating MSHSL Football. He officiated MSHSL Football for 45 years from 1966-2011.

1975 - Bozo began officiating MSHSL Softball. He was still active in umpiring MSHSL Softball through the spring of 2016 after 41 plus years of officiating MSHSL Softball.

1980 - For 39 years through 2019, Bozo was a MSHSL State Football Tournament Statistician, working several games and many dates.

1994 to 2020 - Supervisor of Softball for the City of Brooklyn Park.

Bozo's Honors and Awards

Several honors and awards were rightly bestowed upon this great man. Below are just a few of the major personal and Gopher State awards that brought great joy to Bozo and to all of Gopher State.

➢ 1988 - MSHSL - 30 Years as an Official

➢ 1995 – Elected to the USSSA Softball Hall of Fame

➢ 1996 – MN State HS Coaches Association – Distinguished Service Award

➢ 2008 - Elected to the Eastside Old-Timers Hall of Fame

➢ 2008 - MSHSL - 40 Years as an Official

➢ 2012 – Elected to the MN State Football Coaches Hall of Fame

➢ 2014 - Gopher Officials Association was selected by MSHSL as the Association of Excellence Winner

➢ 2015 - Mr. Darrell “Bozo” Wincek was elected to the prestigious MSHSL Hall of Fame

2022 - Mr. Darrell “Bozo” Wincek named the Minnesota Football Coaches Association 2022 Tom Mahoney Man of the Year


Bozo's Interview with Tim Litfin before Being Inducted

into the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2015

Tim Litfin asked Bozo four questions on Saturday March 7, 2015, while he was preparing Bozo’s nomination for the MSHSL Hall of Fame.

1. “Bozo, why did you want to become an official?” Bozo answered quickly saying, “Timmy, ball is and was a way of life for me. I was playing baseball and softball 6-7 nights a week. Charlie Crapau asked me to consider umpiring, and I quickly realized that I could make a difference as an official. My first love was always playing ball, but soon my first love became umpiring. Plus, they were paying me 6 bucks a game!”

2. “Bozo, what are some of your Career Highlights?”

➢ Getting to know so many great people, coaches, AD’s, and fellow officials.

➢ Recruiting new officials for Gopher and MSHSL, hundreds and hundreds through the years.

➢ Officiating in my first MSHSL State Tournament in Football in 1980.

➢ Being part of and building Gopher State Officials Association from the ground up beginning in 1963.

➢ Having officiated in 25 MSHSL Football State Tournaments.

➢ Having officiated in seven MSHSL Football Championship games.

➢ To have the opportunity to officiate in a State Basketball Tournament.

➢ To have officiated for 50 years.

3. “Bozo, with all the highlights and your constant great work, what might be a career low point for you?”

➢ “Walking off the field in the Metrodome after officiating my last game as a football official. It was a State Championship Football game in 2011.”

4. “Bozo, how many games have you officiated in your career?”

➢ “Well, I might have to think about that. I guess a minimum of 50,000 games.”

Bozo Wincek was a great man. A humble man. A man of many talents and perhaps his greatest talent was in human relations. Everyone wanted to talk to Bozo because he made them feel special. Bozo took pride in knowing officials’ names and when he said hi to you it was a big deal. Bozo worked smart and hard for Gopher State and our membership. Bozo was a servant leader. Bozo loved his family. Bozo loved Gopher State Officials Association and Bozo cared for each member of Gopher State Officials Association.

Thank you for being our friend and our leader, Bozo. A 21-whistle salute to you, sir! Hold him up high as someone we should all try to be more like.

Bozo, we were all blessed to have you as a wonderful friend and mentor.

Grateful, with love and sincere appreciation,

Gopher State Board of Directors