NBA ref fouls out from gambling

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In life there are things you obviously don&8217;t do. You don&8217;t go into the Alabama student section during a home game and root for the other team. You don&8217;t try to maliciously harm opponents on the other team. You don&8217;t hold dog fights in your back yard when you are a star NFL athlete (sorry, had to salute Michael Vick) and you don&8217;t influence games that you are refereeing in professional sports.

Unfortunately two of the aforementioned don&8217;ts have become dones here recently, and a major media blowout has followed in their wake. The Vick situation speaks for itself and isn&8217;t what I want to talk about, though it is unfortunate and sick.

What I want to expound on is the recent discovery that an NBA ref has been on the take, influencing games for personal gains. Well, perhaps not entirely for personal gains I suppose.

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It seems that former NBA referee, Tim Donaghy, who has since resigned from his position in the league, has been betting on games that he has called. Not only that, but Donaghy is also being investigated for trying to shave points through his position of influence to affect the point spread of a number of games he has refereed. The investigation found that Donaghy was coerced into the role due to debts amassed from a gambling problem by low-level mob associates.

Though it is unfortunate that Donaghy found himself in a situation where he felt his only option was to rig games to escape debt, I find it hard to feel remorse for the guy. Though the salaries of NBA players far exceed those of the officiating crew (as they put butts in the seat), referees in the NBA aren&8217;t hurting come payday. The elect few non-athletes on the court during games make between $200,000 and $400,000 a year. Not chump change considering all they have to do is learn a rulebook and take crap from players, coaches and fans.

I find it hard to imagine drawing that kind of paycheck and finding myself in debt. Of course, I am not a hard-core gambler, but, even if I was, I think I would be able to set aside a measly $50,000 to live off of before blowing my salary on something as flippant as sporting events.

Donaghy&8217;s actions not only harmed him, but they also gave his brothers in the black and white, who aren&8217;t on the take, a black eye. If scrutiny on refs wasn&8217;t bad enough before now they must face fans thinking they are rigging games every time they make a suspect call.

Then there is the reputation and trust from fans of the NBA itself. After the allegations leveled at Donaghy, reports were leaked by law enforcement that there could be other officials and even players, likewise involved in similar actions. Of course this could be a last-chance grasp for solid ground by a drowning man, or it could have far reaching implications in the league. Either way fans will be leery for some time of the league that has been struggling recently with an image problem.

Well Stern, I would hope so, but the fact remains that it has happened. I think the next logical step to reassure fans of the intentions and caliber of refers and possibly even players is to set up some kind of investigatory body within the league to analyze the on and off court actions of employees.

There is no doubt that this could have been caught by some sort of statistical analyzation of Donaghy&8217;s calls, much like the same for individual player performance in games. For example, when Donaghy&8217;s game&8217;s home team was favored by 0-41/2 points, they went 5-12 and home underdogs were 1-7 when the spread was 5-9.5 points. Not to mention the February Heat vs. Knicks game, in which the Knicks shot 39 free throws to the Heats eight. The Knicks won by six and where favored 41/2.

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at