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Could league’s vetting process have overlooked a Tim Donaghy?

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The NFL continues to tune out criticism of the replacement officials, but there’s one name that should be keeping V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson awake at night.

Tim Donaghy.

With the league assembling a full complement of eight-per-game replacement officials in only a matter of weeks, the normal vetting procedures clearly weren’t employed.  Former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira and former assistant supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos have separately said that replacement official Shannon Eastin, a professional poker player, never would have secured approval to be a regular NFL official.  Brian Stropolo, a rabid Saints fan who made that known on Facebook, was assigned to work the Saints-Panthers game on Sunday.  Another official worked the Seahawks-Cardinals game in Week One, even though he has (or, more accurately, had) a separate financial arrangement with the Seahawks.  And Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said Monday that a replacement official told him, “I need you for my fantasy team,” even though officials are forbidden from playing fantasy football.

If these obvious issues are falling through the cracks, what about the non-obvious issues?

With the replacement officials realizing that their assignments are short-term by nature (especially since the regular officials would never welcome in the future any of the “scabs” who percolate to the top of the profession), there’s a potential temptation to parlay the temporary assignment into a six-figure score.

Here’s how R.J. Bell of Pregame.com explains it:  “Historically, the motivation for gambling corruption is financial gain.  The deterrence is the consequence of being caught.  In professional football, a large portion of that deterrence involves the potential loss of astronomical compensation (for players) or the loss of a long career of generous compensation (for union officials).  Thus, for many decades, the economics of game corruption was unable to reasonably tempt any participant who could actually affect the game’s outcome.

“Replacement officials most certainly could affect the game’s outcome; at the same time, their expected career earnings in the NFL are quite modest (i.e., once the regular refs settle, they will stop making money from the NFL).  Does this mean that any of the replacement officials are corrupt?  Absolutely not.  But it certainly deserves to be discussed that for the first time in the modern era of the NFL there are decision-makers on the field who could make more financially by fixing a game
than they would be risking financially if they were caught.”

Of course, they also would be risking jail.  But that didn’t stop Donaghy, a 13-year NBA referee, from doing it.  Besides, most of the folks in jail thought they’d get away with it (of course, they also continue to insist they didn’t do it, too).

Do we know any of the replacement officials are gambling on games or making calls that influence the outcome for betting purposes?  No.  But all it takes is one.  And if the league’s background checks failed to catch some of the obvious problems that we now know about, it’s hard not to think about the stuff that a replacement official isn’t posting on his Facebook page.

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13 Responses to “Could league’s vetting process have overlooked a Tim Donaghy?”
  1. mataug says: Sep 19, 2012 8:17 AM

    I don’t understand how this cannot be applied to any official – fulltime or replacement. At the end of the day, you cheat & you get more money.

  2. eyeh8goodell says: Sep 19, 2012 8:19 AM

    I’ve been saying it for a while. The league will be hit hard by a gambling scandal. It’s inevitable.

  3. mjkelly77 says: Sep 19, 2012 8:26 AM

    The NFL will have full-time refs. After this year when the NFL tells the greedy part-timers to stay home permanently, they’ll cherry pick the best of the new referees. By then the NCAA Division I referees will know the NFL means business and the best of them will be available for full-time, permanent positions. By next year the NFL will have the youngest, most dedicated and best officials they’ve ever had. And they’ll be full-time, able to work on they’re craft year-round with encyclopedic knowledge of the rules. I’m looking forward to it.

  4. thejuddstir says: Sep 19, 2012 8:30 AM

    I can’t believe the NFL is willing to sacrifice the integrity of the games for the little bit of money it would cost them to settle with the officials. The clowns they are using are making it difficult to watch these games.

  5. mrtog says: Sep 19, 2012 8:37 AM

    These officials are under the microscope. Everybody, including these refs know that. Why would they even try to do anything that can be construed as even remotely sketchy? They can’t get away with it. If Tim Donaghy was subjected to this type of scrutiny and got away with it, then you might have a point, but I don’t think that was the case.

  6. packhawk04 says: Sep 19, 2012 8:39 AM

    I ask myself this every year as far as the refs go. Since the regular refs also officiate practices and are paid by the teams, (thanks for making that point, mike) i wonder if they have an interest. And i didnt know shannon eastin was a pro poker player. I know she played in the world series of poker once. But, i know you wouldnt be fudging with the truth when it comes to making the nfl look bad. (Wink wink)

  7. jpb12 says: Sep 19, 2012 8:44 AM

    Clearly they are vulnerable with the replacement refs (Saints Fan included).. Vegas has got to be calling.

    This also applies to bounty issue.

    Why is it assumed that Vilma’s $10,000 bounty came from his pocket? What if a rookie puts a $50,000 bounty out there and got the money from an ‘interested fan’?

    Integrity of the game.

  8. vikesfansteve says: Sep 19, 2012 8:57 AM

    They need to investigate the crew in the NO vs MN NFC Championship & the Pittsburgh vs Seattle SB while they are at it.

  9. httr555 says: Sep 19, 2012 8:59 AM

    Ever since Goodell began there has been nothing but his face and name on the frontpage of NFL news! His judge and jury style to make the league safer has turned into a dictatorship where every Monday and Tuesday morning instead of talking about the previous games we’re having to listen about bounty gate and replacement refs. He’s ruining the sport!!!!! If I wanted to watch a soap opera I record it during the day! GOODELL PLEASE STOP! We are begging, STOP being selfish!!!

  10. prospero63 says: Sep 19, 2012 9:17 AM

    This situation isn’t unique to the current officials. It’s kind of intellectually dishonest to present it as such.

  11. jgrange says: Sep 19, 2012 10:45 AM

    What does Tim Donaghy have to do with the NFL replacement refs other than to make a stir and draw attention to the fact the NFL is currently using replacement refs? *yawns*

  12. whyaskwhy46 says: Sep 19, 2012 12:34 PM

    What is truly ridiculous is all the righteous indignation from the media and the players. Where was all this angst when the “regular” officials made horrendous calls? The new refs have the excuse of a learning curve and even Florio admits they had a good first week. The 2nd week was marred by players trying to test the refs by their own admission but does anyone honestly believe that the NFL will not immediately address that aspect? I understand the new refs have made the game choppy but that will ease away as they get more comfortable. No one addresses the fact that every year challenges increased as did the rate of reversal with the regular refs. i get the players chirping because they are also a union but the media is brutal, I guess it is helpful for them to make this look as bad as they can for the story to grab readers. Sad, very sad. The regular refs cost the Cardinals a Superbowl and there was no outrage then.(and full disclosure, I am an Eagles fan)

  13. stevenfbrackett says: Sep 19, 2012 9:48 PM

    Whenever we have an opening, before interviewing anyone, we put their name through our favorite search engine – eliminates a lot of prospects when you find links to newspaper articles about their identify theft arrest or blog/twitter posts about how wasted they got last weekend and the kickass beatdown they gave some dude at the bar.

    Among other things. Search engines — fast and free. Try it NFL.

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