FanDuel - WFBC

July 24, 2007

Suspected NBA Referee's Games Hit the Over More Often: Over the last two NBA seasons, games refereed by Tim Donaghy scored more points than Las Vegas expected 57 percent of the time (79 of 138 games), according to R.J. Bell of the sports betting site PreGame.Com. In the two years prior, his games hit the over 44 percent of the time. "There is an absolute correlation between the number of fouls a referee calls in an NBA game and the number of points scored by the teams," he writes. "An NBA ref who intended to illicitly influence a game would do so by calling more fouls, and thus his games would be higher scoring than average." A source told the Denver Post Sunday that the league has known about the FBI's investigation of the referee since January, rather than after the NBA Finals as reported elsewhere.

posted by rcade to basketball at 09:12 AM - 43 comments

Thanks for a great follow-up to the story commented elsewhere on SpoFi, rcade. The website you linked to has a full statistical breakdown of all the over/unders of every game over the last few years by referee, including Donaghy. But now, the question is: since David Stern knew Donaghy was being investigated, why the hell was he allowed to officiate from January on, including the playoffs? I think, after all that's happened the past few years, I'm done with the NBA. Enough's enough already. I'm watching the press conference now as I write this and Stern has a LOT of explaining to do to the public for this.

posted by NerfballPro at 10:12 AM on July 24

In the two years prior to the FBI is investigating, Tim Donaghys games scored more points than Las Vegas expected only 44% of the time Over the last two NBA seasons, games refereed by Tim Donaghy scored more points than Las Vegas expected 57 percent of the time So what you're saying is over the past 4 years his games hit the over roughly 50% of the time? Boy, it'd be tough to make a lot of money betting on those odds. Who chooses the sample time span? Two years? I bet you can make the stat look even more dramatic over one year, or less. Is two years based on when the investigations started? Why? Who is to say the same stuff wasn't going on before the investigation? This article doesn't mean a lot to me.

posted by Bill Lumbergh at 10:22 AM on July 24

If Stern knew about the investigation into Donaghy and allowed him to officiate all the way through the third game of the Suns-Spurs playoff series, I don't see how the commish keeps his job. This has the makings of another Black Sox scandal. So what you're saying is over the past 4 years his games hit the over roughly 50% of the time? Boy, it'd be tough to make a lot of money betting on those odds. That's not what's being alleged at all. His numbers are dodgy for the last two years (not four), and presumably in that period he would have fixed as few games as possible, to reduce the chances of being caught.

posted by rcade at 10:26 AM on July 24

The numbers in the article don't really show a glaring problem. What I assume will start coming out of the investigation is the stats about the games that Donaghy and his co-conspirators bet on. I also think there is a bigger problem when Stern knows about an investigation into a ref fixing games and he allows that ref to keep officiating games. How do you justify that? David Stern said in a statement: "... to take the necessary steps to protect against this ever happening again." What steps were taken in January to keep this from ever happening again?

posted by Familyman at 10:46 AM on July 24

So what you're saying is over the past 4 years his games hit the over roughly 50% of the time? Boy, it'd be tough to make a lot of money betting on those odds. 57% is not roughly 50%. 7% is huge in the gambling world. Think of it this way, in roulette you would think betting red or black you have a 50/50 shot of winning. But the "house" introduced 0 and 00 (green) onto the wheel. That now brings the odds of hitting red or black to "47.37%". BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars have been made by casinos off of that 2.63%. The house odds advantage in blackjack is roughly 5.9%. Again, BILLIONS have been made on that slight advantage.

posted by bdaddy at 10:51 AM on July 24

Stern says he first knew June 20. He's saying that the NBA knew Donaghy was fixing back in January was untrue. Denial. Sigh. He better hope that statement doesn't come to bite his ass; it's the only thing that's keeping the lynch mob at bay. If it's proven the NBA knew, we'll likely see the Stern regime in its death throes.

posted by NerfballPro at 10:53 AM on July 24

bdaddy: 2 years @ 44% + 2 years @ 57% = 50.5% over 4 years, or "roughly 50%"

posted by Bill Lumbergh at 11:07 AM on July 24

His numbers are dodgy for the last two years (not four), and presumably in that period he would have fixed as few games as possible, to reduce the chances of being caught. What Lumbergh's saying is if you change the parameters to a larger view, the numbers go back to not being suspicious. Not that I necessarily agree, just interpreting. Also, he wants you in on Sunday. ON EDIT: well, there you go. However BL, is that a straight average of the two numbers or did you account for all the games over the timespan?

posted by yerfatma at 11:08 AM on July 24

What Lumbergh's saying is if you change the parameters to a larger view, the numbers go back to not being suspicious. Not that I necessarily agree, just interpreting. Also, he wants you in on Sunday. sorry, I misread as I thought it was implied he's only been doing this the last 2 years (so the previous 2 didn't matter). And those TPS reports are just going to have to wait.

posted by bdaddy at 11:12 AM on July 24

The feds are only investigating him for supposed violations starting in the past two years, thats why this evidnce is so damning. If the 44% is viewed as his "pre-corruption" numbers and 57% as his "fixing lines for the mob" numbers, the difference would be astounding and yes, would seem to indicate that something has changed in the fundamental way he calls games. 13% is a HUGE difference....

posted by Hornsfan817 at 11:34 AM on July 24

It's just another sad black mark on the state of proffessional sports, including college sports. Doping in cycling and baseball. Boxing is a joke, great sport, but promoters have ruined it. I consider myself a true sports fan, not the betting, gambling type, I just love to watch the game. Most proffessional sports and their charactors are starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Dog fighting, drugs, violence, gambling, overall disrespectful and irresponsible behavior by the athletes. "I am not a role model" and as it turns out Sir Charles Barkley is a role model compared to cesspole that has become our faorite pastimes. Now as I watch games with my 11 year old son I am hopeful that his favorite player doesn't get caught up in a shooting at a strip club, get caught at a dog fight, come up on a list out of Balco, father 12 children by 8 different mothers, get pulled over in a car full of pot, the list goes on. I guess our only option is local high school sports, problem there is they are already starting to smell of other peoples money also.

posted by km2262 at 11:49 AM on July 24

I was listening to the press conference this morning, and I thought I heard Stern say they wanted to fire Donaghy earlier, but was told not to by the FBI. Did anyone else hear the same thing? If so, that would explain why he was still officiating -- they wanted to avoid a tip-off.

posted by cybermac at 11:55 AM on July 24

OK, I wasn't imagining it, but I may have misunderstood it slightly (from the recap): The FBI first contacted the NBA on June 20 to talk about a referee alleged to be gambling on games, and the two sides met on June 21, Stern said. Donaghy resigned July 9. "Suffice to say, we would have liked to have terminated him earlier, but our understanding was the investigation would best be aided if we did not terminate Mr. Donaghy," Stern said. You could interpret that as meaning the FBI waited until June to inform the league of the investigation so as not to jeopardize it. Of course, this all assumes Stern is being straightforward, which might be a big, unfounded assumption....

posted by cybermac at 12:17 PM on July 24

So they allowed Donaghy to upset the integrity of the playoffs and cause irreparable damage to the league's image to execute this one trap? That makes sense. You know, if you made sports illegal I bet this whole sports gambling thing would go away.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 12:20 PM on July 24

...why the hell was he allowed to officiate from January on, including the playoffs? Since Tim Donaghy was under investigation but the FBI, David Stern was told not to fire Donaghy so that everything would appear 'normal'.

posted by BornIcon at 12:20 PM on July 24

I'm not buying the idea that Stern would allow the last three months of the 2006-07 NBA season and the first two rounds of the playoffs to be used as a sting operation. How could anyone trust the result of the season?

posted by rcade at 12:48 PM on July 24

"Now as I watch games with my 11 year old son I am hopeful that his favorite player doesn't get caught up in a shooting at a strip club, get caught at a dog fight, come up on a list out of Balco, father 12 children by 8 different mothers, get pulled over in a car full of pot, the list goes on." Or kill a black man outside the stadium! Whups, that was Ty Cobb (well, not really, but it was a pervasive story for about 50 years). Tim Donaghy was the head of the reffing crew that jobbed the Pistons in 2006, right? Like, the 40% increase over other reffing crews in fouls called on Detroit? I think I'm recalling the right name and figures.

posted by klangklangston at 12:50 PM on July 24

...father 12 children by 8 different mothers So what's illegal about that? Pretty nasty but not illegal.

posted by BornIcon at 01:15 PM on July 24

Beautiful short piece by Kevin Arnovitz at ClipperBlog (which I will pimp at every turn) reproduced here in its entireity:

Remember the opening sequence of Jerry Maguire in which Jerry laments the slow disintegration of Sport? That “lately it’s gotten worse” – the criminality, the crass commercialism, the nefarious influence of the dollar? This week is Armageddon, and the Donaghy story is the culmination of the trashiest sports month in recent memory. The difference between Donaghy and Vick or Bonds is that, as players, the latter two are merely our creations. We sketch these guys as comic book heroes and ascribe them personae composed of various superpowers. That doesn’t exonerate guys like Bonds or Vick from anything they’ve done, but they aren’t part of the sporting infrastructure the way Donaghy is. And that’s what makes this story so unpalatable – it hits the Association on an institutional level. It’s sort of like the delineation that Jewish law makes between man-against-man sins and man-against-God sins. The first is an indictment on the material world because you’ve screwed with a fellow being. But mocking God –- provided you’re into the higher power stuff – is a metaphysical crime. Simmons is largely correct. No matter how this shakes out, Donaghy’s crimes will hang over the sport for our lifetime. But as much as the reality of Donaghy besmirches the past –- the PHX-San Antonio Game Three most prominently – the scandal actually bolsters the future integrity of the league: Is there anyone who seriously doubts that 2007-2008 NBA season won’t be the most carefully refereed collection of sporting events in modern history? Sports fans will sublimate just about anything to get our fix. We're like battered spouses. We'll come back, whether we should or not.

posted by lilnemo at 01:18 PM on July 24

Something I might be missing, but why is it so important the 57%? I know that there's a large difference with the 44% of the previous 2 years, but do they always have to bet on the "over"? Couldn't they just have done one "over" followed by one "under" and so forth, so as the average would stay close to 50% and it wouldn't have raised a flag? The guy all he had to do was to remember when to "whistle a lot" and when to "swallow the whistle". Am I wrong?

posted by gloglu at 01:28 PM on July 24

The same thought entered my mind. Maybe Donaghy was calling less fouls the first two years and betting on the 'under' and switched tactics in the last two years. I would love to know how close bookies get to picking fairly officiated games. Obviously they aren't going to be dead on very often so I wonder what the typical deviation from actual score they have.

posted by Ricardo at 02:11 PM on July 24

You know, if you made sports illegal I bet this whole sports gambling thing would go away. I got $20 that it wouldn't.

posted by THX-1138 at 03:40 PM on July 24

I see your $20 and raise you $50.

posted by worldcup2002 at 05:00 PM on July 24

Couldn't they just have done one "over" followed by one "under" and so forth, so as the average would stay close to 50% and it wouldn't have raised a flag? It's infinitely easier to ADD more points to a basketball game (call more fouls) than it is to restrict points. Even if you don't call fouls, players can still score baskets. As well, it's hard to "swallow the whistle" if there is an obvious foul, but it's quite easy to call a ticky-tack foul on every incidental contact in the paint. As well, it's always better to fix the "over", just in case someone in the game goes on an unconscious streak and starts draining 3-pointers all night long, or gets "in the zone" and pulls a Kobe-scores-80 game for the ages.

posted by grum@work at 07:41 PM on July 24

I heard that Donaghy's alibi is that he was too busy helping Vick train dogs to fix basketball games. When one keeps in mind that the Black Sox scandal of the early 1900's is still discussed, I see no reason to expect this to go away quietly. Every bad call late in a game for years will be cause for claims of a ref fixing the game. Is there anyone who seriously doubts that 2007-2008 NBA season won’t be the most carefully refereed collection of sporting events in modern history? Yea, and the doping scandals in cycling caused all the other cyclists to lay off the dope...and Paris Hilton's troubles with the law scared Lindsay Lohan straight. But, I'd rather share a jail cell with Lohan than with Donaghy any day! Can you imagine Donaghy's time in the slammer with all the brothers? Some guy named Bubba that lost $50 on a Laker's game that went over is going make him his bitch for life.

posted by dviking at 12:58 AM on July 25

When one keeps in mind that the Black Sox scandal of the early 1900's is still discussed, I see no reason to expect this to go away quietly. It's still discussed, and people are certainly aware of it, but not in the manner of actively suspecting that a second incarnation of the event could happen at any minute. It's a part of baseball history, but it's a stretch to say that it's still hurting baseball. And I think the Black Sox scandal was much larger in scale than this is—it was a group of people organizing to throw baseball's premier event. This is a single guy point-shaving individual games. Consider if San Antonio's starting five decided to throw the NBA finals: that would be a much larger and more damaging scandal than this.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 09:45 AM on July 25

Maybe Ray Allen was right.

posted by drezdn at 10:38 AM on July 25

yo doc, I never said that the black sox scandal is still hurting baseball, I only used it as a reference point on why this scandal will not just die away quickly as a previous comment had stated. Duh, you think a whole team throwing the World Series is bigger than a ref possibly fixing a few games? Was there something in what you read that gave you the idea anyone thought that? Still, this is pretty big as it shows how easily one person can manipulate an NBA game. Maybe they can get John Cusack to play Donaghy in the sure to be upcoming movie One Man Out

posted by dviking at 12:19 PM on July 25

This whole episode confirms my suspicions all along about officiating in professional sports. Any event where ONE individual has control of the scoring posibilities has to much risk for cheating. It happens pretty much at every NFL game. Look at retired NFL referies, living in Multi-Million dollar homes, is the pay that high or is there other "incentivies"

posted by rockyxgone at 01:14 PM on July 25

Look at retired NFL referies, living in Multi-Million dollar homes, is the pay that high or is there other "incentivies" Do you have examples of this? My understanding is that a lot of the NFL referees have other jobs, and that some of them do this not as a form of income, but as enjoyment (independently wealthy before become referees).

posted by grum@work at 01:19 PM on July 25

My understanding is that a lot of the NFL referees have other jobs, and that some of them do this not as a form of income, but as enjoyment (independently wealthy before become referees). Like Ed Hochuli, who is a partner at a fairly decent-sized law firm in Phoenix. I wonder if he wears short sleeves during closing arguments to show the jurors how ripped he is.

posted by holden at 01:55 PM on July 25

Look at retired NFL referies, living in Multi-Million dollar homes, is the pay that high or is there other "incentivies The pay for NBA officials is $100,000 to $300,000 per the original article. Clearly, if someone works more than a few years at that level they could easily afford a nice house. I'm not sure what NFL officials make, but I'm sure it is in the same ballpark, so to speak. And, as grum pointed out, most have second careers. I have heard that many have sales jobs on the side that allow them flexibility to be off during the season.

posted by dviking at 01:55 PM on July 25

I'm not sure what NFL officials make, but I'm sure it is in the same ballpark, so to speak. I can't imagine why it would be. They work less than a quarter of the number of games, and it seems to me that the physical demands on the football ref are lower. (Of course, they do have the constant threat of being steamrolled by a fully-equiped 2-ton human wrecking ball... but still.)

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 02:19 PM on July 25

I'm not sure what NFL officials make, but I'm sure it is in the same ballpark, so to speak. I can't imagine why it would be. They work less than a quarter of the number of games, and it seems to me that the physical demands on the football ref are lower. (Of course, they do have the constant threat of being steamrolled by a fully-equiped 2-ton human wrecking ball... but still.) The N.F.L.'s Officials Association signed a 6 year contract in September 2001 that gave officials an immediate 50% pay increase. First year officials went up to $29,000, 20 year Refs went to $90,000, crew chiefs to $100,000. By 2006 1st year officials were at $34,000, ten year officials to $64,000, and 20 year refs went from $90,000 in 2001 to $100,000 in 2002, and increases of $5,000 each year after that. Playoff money and pension contributions were also increased and for the first time the league agreed to match officials' contributions to their retirement plans. Not N.B.A., N.H.L., or M.L.B. numbers, but pretty good for a one day a week job for 16 weeks or so a year, plus playoffs.

posted by tommytrump at 02:50 PM on July 25

Yea, and the doping scandals in cycling caused all the other cyclists to lay off the dope...and Paris Hilton's troubles with the law scared Lindsay Lohan straight. And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Your analogies don't add up. doping scandals in cycling caused all the other cyclists to lay off the dope
Obviously it hasn't (yet), but those who dope certainly aren't going home with the yellow jersey any more are they? Even if they were, this argument has little bearing here unless you'd care to argue that the directors are shaving seconds off of riders time trials. Paris Hilton's troubles with the law scared Lindsay Lohan straight
True. But neither of these two young women's "jobs" are centered around their integrity to begin with. If nothing else, the negative publicity they receive for their actions actually bolsters their "Q rating" and "marketability". NBA referees, by and large are not the focus of the game, unlike the subjects in your examples. I don't think its beyond reason to assert that referees, who were scrutinized already, will feel the pressure to "make the right call" this upcoming season. Mind you, the original post does not imply that the refs are going to get every call perfect this season, as you are implying. I'll post the quote again:

Is there anyone who seriously doubts that 2007-2008 NBA season won’t be the most carefully refereed collection of sporting events in modern history?
Not to split too fine a hair here, but in response to this scandal the officiating will be deliberated, debated, and pored over quite a bit this oncoming season. One would think that would make the zebras a little tense (dare I say careful?) about which way that charge/block foul goes, right call or no.

posted by lilnemo at 03:45 PM on July 25

Not N.B.A., N.H.L., or M.L.B. numbers, but pretty good for a one day a week job for 16 weeks or so a year, plus the playoffs. Too bad they're all corrupt, gambling on the game, living the high-life in big mansion, crushing the dreams of all us fans, pumping up they're biceps (steroids Hochuli? Hmmm...) no-goodniks.

posted by THX-1138 at 03:52 PM on July 25

lilnemo...chill out dude... the Hilton/Lohan line was a joke. As to the cyclists, that was in reference to your thought that the Donaghy mess would scare others straight. Reality doesn't back that up. Steroids persist, doping persists, and this is not the first point shaving/adding case. The doping cases have all but killed cycling...who cares about the Tour de France this year? The Bonds steroid saga has ruined what should be a wonderful moment in sports. Athletes (and celebrities, thus the Hilton/Lohan line) seem to think that they are above the law and won't get caught. Or, at least, they will just get a slap on the wrist if they do get nabbed. While I do agree that officials are probably a more containable group, I still think that there is room for question. There will still be ones that pile up huge debts, and people in bad situations sometimes make bad judgements. My main concern for the NBA is that this fall, every questionable call will start the debate on whether or not that official was fixing the game. You know, on second thought, maybe it will lead to less calls and thus faster games. Could be a good thing.

posted by dviking at 04:46 PM on July 25

lilnemo...chill out dude... the Hilton/Lohan line was a joke. Granted. I got the joke. But my point still stands. As to the cyclists, that was in reference to your thought that the Donaghy mess would scare others straight. Go back. I didn't write any of that. The italicized text is quoted from the link given. My larger point (and if I may impose, the original author's point) still stands. I'm not arguing that this would "scare others straight" but that it would affect the officiating this coming season. That bringing this aberration out into the open could lead to better transparency in how officials are rated/judged by the league. And the end result of that is better officiating. Steroids persist, doping persists, and this is not the first point shaving/adding case.
Yes, doping continues. But not without consequences. The doping cases have all but killed cycling...who cares about the Tour de France this year?
I'm thinking the French still care. But then, they always have. The Bonds steroid saga has ruined what should be a wonderful moment in sports.
Depends on your perspective. But even then, its not like people are boycotting the games. While I do agree that officials are probably a more containable group, I still think that there is room for question.
Absolutely. We are on the same page here. There will still be ones that pile up huge debts, and people in bad situations sometimes make bad judgements.
True. But these people are the exceptions and not the rule. My main concern for the NBA is that this fall, every questionable call will start the debate on whether or not that official was fixing the game.
Exactly. Which is why this scandal could be good for the game. By calling the integrity of the officiating into question, the league will have to be more transparent about their refs in order to demonstrate that Donaghy doesn't represent all referees. Only himself. The pressure for clarification and examination should lead to better calls, if not a better understanding of the judgement behind them. I think we are a lot closer to agreement than you realize.

posted by lilnemo at 05:54 PM on July 25

alright lilnemo, here's my last response on this thread, well probably my last. Saying that the French still care is kind like saying that die-hard Giants/Bonds fans still care. Yea, but no one else does, and that is sad. Both the race and Bonds getting the record should be fun to watch...they are not. I do not know of one person that thinks the steroid issue in baseball has not diminished (maybe ruined is too strong of word for most) the excitement surrounding this. Even the commissioner of baseball had doubt about attending, what kind of message is that? We do disagree on why this scandal may be good for the NBA...you think it will increase the integrity of the officiating, I think it will just cause many of the officials to swallow their whistle. have a great evening!

posted by dviking at 07:31 PM on July 25

First of all, the magic number as far as percentages go is 52.6%--that's what you need to make a profit laying 11-to-10 odds (the standard, at least in the casinos, for even bets). And a question. Do NBA officials work in the same trios all season, as baseball/football crews do (allowing for vacations and such)?

posted by silverpie at 05:36 PM on July 26

Saying that the French still care is kind like saying that die-hard Giants/Bonds fans still care. Yea, but no one else does, and that is sad. Both the race and Bonds getting the record should be fun to watch...they are not. I do not know of one person that thinks the steroid issue in baseball has not diminished (maybe ruined is too strong of word for most) the excitement surrounding this. Hi. My name is grum@work, and I am not a Giants fans (Toronto would be my team affiliation). I am a fan of great ballplayers in general, like Bonds, ARod, Maddux, Clemens, Pujols, etc. The home run chase is fun for me. The steroid issue has not diminished my excitement for this big moment in baseball. Even the commissioner of baseball had doubt about attending, what kind of message is that? The message I got is that Bud Selig is a moron. He should have been doing everything he could to provide a strong public image about Bonds/Aaron. Instead, he pussy-footed around and mealy-mouthed his way into position he should have taken from the beginning.

posted by grum@work at 09:51 AM on July 27

grum, if you are truly saying that the whole steroid issue has not diminished the fun, and excitement, of the Bonds chase for you, well, then I guess I know one person that can say that. I know that the media does not share that feeling with you, major league baseball does not share that feeling with you (not just Selig, players have spoken out recently as well). I do not just blame Bonds for this. Sosa, McGuire, Palmerio and the rest share the blame. By the way, wasn't this a basketball thread?

posted by dviking at 07:23 PM on July 27

The home run chase is fun for me. It is for me as well. Although the endless coverage on ESPN, the World Wide Leader in All Things Barry Bonds can get rather annoying.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 09:17 PM on July 27

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