Buzz: Hold Those Betting Sheets, Delaware…

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2009

A three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia today heard two hours of oral arguments on the legality of Delaware’s proposed plan to institute sports gambling in time for the opening of football season in two weeks.  Their decision to overturn the lower court’s holding allowing such wagering in Delaware sent ripples through the Northeastern corridor, as gambling savants from Connecticut to Virginia will have to cancel their planned fall weekend trips to Dover.  At issue was the expansion of wagering options that Delaware has proposed, including single-game bets using point spreads in multiple sports.  Under previous interpretation of law, the state is only allowed to offer parlay-style gambling on professional football games – any expansion beyond that is illegal.  Today’s ruling leaves little wiggle room for the state, as an appeal is unlikely to be considered by the Supreme Court.  So… does this mean a Final Four in Wilmington is back on?

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08.11.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2009

With the rate of news coming out these days, this’ll feel a little more like slow breaks…

  • Academic Headstart.  This got almost no play over the weekend, but it should have because it has the smell of something that ends up being more important than anyone previously thought.  The NCAA Basketball Academic Enhancement Group (chaired by Derrick Rose?) recommended a requirement that each school should make an academic assessment of its incoming freshmen each season to determine whether the student-athlete is adequately prepared for college-level schoolwork.  If they are not (presumably using some objective measure other than the Jim Harrick, Jr., test), then they’ll be required to take six hours of classes over the summer (‘bridge’ summer coursework data shows a higher incidence of long-term academic success).  The big carrot is that, while they’re in summer school (and all players can attend if they like), they can work out for up to eight hours/week in athletic activities.  The catch, however, is that they must pass at least three of those hours to gain eligibility for the fall semester.  Should this recommendation come to pass (and it probably will), each school will have to balance a  fine line between the player assessment and player eligibility.  God forbid that the next Michael Beasley gets his high school grades and test scores in order, shows up at his school amidst great fanfare, only to fail college algebra over the summer and have to sit until December because the coach wanted those eight hours per week of court time.  It’s an interesting dilemma and it imposes a certain level of accountability on the schools themselves to take the academic side of things more seriously, which is a good thing.  Props to the NCAA for getting creative here. 
  • Vegas Watch ACC Preview.  We’ll be sure to come back to this when we put up our conference previews later this fall, but we wanted to make sure that you guys alll have a chance to read the first installment in a really innovative series of posts breaking down each of the BCS conferences.  VW ran several regressions on the last three seasons to determine a fairly accurate predictor for future success using Pomeroy ratings, returning minutes and production and incoming recruiting rankings.  Looking at the projected 2010 rankings, it appears that those riding the Terrapin bandwagon have reason to believe, as Maryland is projected third, while those of us who were high on Georgia Tech (even prior to losing K. Holsey) may want to re-think that a little bit before October.  Keep an eye on this series because it’s fascinating stuff. 
  • Deron Washington Hurdles into Eternity.  If, for some reason, you haven’t seen what Virginia Tech has done with its new practice facility yet…  It’s really too bad that Syracuse football doesn’t play Virginia Tech this year, or Paulus would have a fair opportunity to exact some revenge (he’s the third-string QB for the Orange as of this week). 

deron washington over paulus

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Delaware to NCAA: FU and the Horse You Rode In On…

Posted by rtmsf on July 28th, 2009

In case you missed it late last Friday afternoon, the NCAA, along with the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, sued the state of Delaware and the issue had nothing to do with the state’s personal extortionists known as credit card companies.  See, those crafty First Staters hidden along the east coast near Pennsylmaryginia have gotten all uppity and are planning on implementing legal sports gambling in time for this year’s NFL and college football seasons.  Unlike its previous foray into sports betting during the 1970s (an ill-advised sports ‘lottery’ of sorts), this time around the state has plans to offer single-game wagers using point spreads the same as one would make at the Bellagio or Wynn in Vegas.  Revenue would help Delaware close its projected half-billion dollar budget deficit next year and in subsequent years.  The professional leagues and the NCAA don’t like this development (what about the children???), so they’re suing the state to block the plan, stating that sports gambling in Delaware “would irreparably harm professional and amateur sports by fostering suspicion and skepticism that individual plays and final scores of games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition.”

delaware25

Is the NCAA serious with this nonsense? We already know that illegal gambling is far worse than these leagues will ever let on, but does the NCAA truly believe that by eliminating legal, regulated gaming that there will be a greater chance for its games to become tainted?  Are we expected to believe that Delaware athletes, or those of nearby surrounding states, will suddenly become more compelled to make a trip to Dover Downs to lay some bones on themselves?  It’s complete hogwash, the NCAA knows it, and their hypocrisy by doing business with companies such as CBS who promote gambling on their web properties and allowing UNLV and Nevada (yeah, gambling happens there too) to compete at the highest level of NCAA sports is appalling.  Luckily, we’re not the only ones who feel that way.

Peter Schwartzkopf, the Delaware House majority leader, fired back today with a letter addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell but cc’d to each of the other parties of the lawsuit.  It is fair to say that he holds no punches:

What I do not respect is the blatant hypocrisy of the professional sports leagues like the NFL that have now brought a lawsuit against Delaware. The lawsuit complains that legalized sports betting in Delaware will somehow undermine the integrity of their leagues. But the stance taken in these legal filings is belied by the close nexus between gambling and the leagues themselves. [...]  We also learned that the NCAA, while threatening our Delaware universities with taking away home playoff games if sports betting moves forward, sponsored the Las Vegas Bowl last year, housing its players in hotel casinos where bets are taken on games.

Ouch.  He continues:

It is hard to imagine why moving forward with sports betting in Delaware will undermine the integrity of professional or college sports. Las Vegas has promoted sports betting for many years, so Delaware is not covering new ground here. When it comes to expanding state sponsored gaming, legitimate debate and discussion should continue among Delaware’s elected representatives and its citizens. But the self-serving, hypocritical pronouncements and legal threats by these for-profit sports leagues that have sued Delaware should be rejected.

The Supreme Court of Delaware already issued an advisory opinion on this issue in May, and it determined that so long as there is an element of chance involved in the system (i.e., it’s not 100% skill), then it is a legal mechanism.  To get around this, the plaintiffs filed their case in federal court in the hopes that they could get a different interpretation.  We wish nothing but the worst of luck to the NCAA and their cohorts on this one.

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Ok, Let’s Go Double or Nothing…

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2008

Arizona sophomore forward Jamelle Horne is making a name for himself in the desert this season for more than just his boneheaded play against UAB a month ago (see below video for a refesher on that particular abomination).  

He’s averaging 8 ppg and 4 rpg as a starter, but his most recent newsworthy moment came after Wednesday night’s game vs. San Diego State.  From the Tucson Citizen:

Arizona sophomore forward Jamelle Horne apologized for a flippant comment he made about a wager he made against former San Diego area high school teammates in UA’s 69-56 win over San Diego State.  “I want to apologize for my comments last night and say that no wager took place,” said Horne, in a statement through the school’s sports information office.  “I understand that sports and gambling do not mix.  In an effort to be funny after a tough game, I made a poor choice of words and now realize that I should choose my words more carefully.”

The wager in question was supposedly a dinner bet.  There’s no word yet as to whether if, in a similar bet with Mike Davis, he was heavy on UAB when he made his foolish intentional foul to give the Blazers the victory a few weeks ago. 

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Monday Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on July 30th, 2007

A few different thoughts today, but none enough for its own post:

  • Circling back to the Donaghy saga, TrueHoop uncovered an academic paper on the NBA by a Stanford undergrad  named Jonathan Gibbs that echoes the findings of the Wharton study on college basketball by Prof. Justin Wolfers that we mentioned last week.  In summary, Gibbs found that there are a number of statistical outlier NBA games each season where heavy favorites beat the spread less often than they should, which, when controlled for confounding factors, is suggestive of pointshaving.  This certainly comports with our prior stance that it happens more often than we all think.  It seems that the only way to truly combat this problem is for the NBA and college conferences to use rigorous statistical analyses such as these to isolate anamolous game performances with respect to the spread (something that neither is likely doing at present), and then systemically review the games isolated for any funny business on the part of the players and/or officials.  Freakonomics at work, baby!
  • As the Wake Forest Nation continues to mourn the tragic loss of Skip Prosser, preparations are being made to say goodbye:
    • A public viewing will be held on Monday, July 30 from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church in Clemmons, N.C.
    • The funeral mass will be celebrated at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31 at Holy Family Catholic Church.  The mass will be simultaneously televised in Wait Chapel. Members of the Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem communities are invited to view the mass live in Wait Chapel.
    • The Wake Forest assistant coaching staff will serve as pallbearers. The current and incoming members of the Demon Deacon basketball team will serve as honorary pallbearers.
    • Burial is tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 4 in Cincinnati.    
  • Finally, we’d also like to point out that the US Pan Am Team lost its first two games at the competition in Rio de Janeiro and was out of medal contention pretty much as soon as they stepped off the plane.  We’ll have a more detailed report later with respect to who played well and who didn’t, but for now, suffice it to say that fifth place with our best collegians is simply unacceptable and indicative of a much larger problem with USA hoops, as we discussed here.   
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NCAA Response to Tim Donaghy

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2007

As a short follow-up to the Donaghy scandal, the NCAA released the following information to espn.com regarding the measures it takes to ensure that its officials are clean (RTC’s comments below in bold): 

NCAA (basketball)
• The NCAA produces a video that is provided to each of the officials selected for the NCAA championship. The video warns of the dangers of gambling.

[Wow!  A video!  Reminds us of 9th grade.]

• All officials eligible to be selected to work the championship are subject to random, thorough background checks.

[Covered this yesterday.  How thorough could these checks be?  What predictive value do they have?]

• There are security and operational plans for officials, which the NCAA does not discuss publicly.

[This just sounds like "we don't want you to know what we don't know."]

• The NCAA works with law enforcement authorities on the local, state and federal levels in the handling of any inquiries, concerns or issues, should any arise.

[Working with the police?  This sounds like measures used ex post facto, not preventive in any way.]

• The NCAA does not bring the referees who work the national title game into the city until the day of the game. The NCAA used to bring them in for the weekend, but they didn’t want the referees to be exposed, visible and have everyone know who they are prior to the title game.

[Was this rule instituted before phones and the internet?]

• Officials are also subject to extensive background checks.

[Just in case you forgot from above.] 

MADD 

Is This the NCAA Instructional Video?

As we stated rather longwindedly yesterday, there are ginormous (new Webster’s word this year – look it up) holes in the controls that ensure the integrity of NCAA basketball officials.  Almost everything the NCAA stated above is designed for one purpose and one purpose only – CYA – to be able to say that it performed its due diligence the next (first?) time a Donaghy is uncovered in college athletics.

Perhaps the reason that a Donaghy has yet to be discovered in the NCAA has everything to do with the complete lack of oversight of most of its officials and nothing to do with some pie-in-the-sky notion that the NCAA has things under control.  As The Commish said, NBA officials are the most scrutinized referees in the world, and yet Donaghy still eluded discovery through the League’s objective measurements.  How on earth would anyone know if a Big West or Atlantic 10 official was doing what Donaghy did (assuming he doesn’t go overboard to tip off the gambling establishment)? 

The short answer is that there is no way to know unless the official slips up.  Donaghy’s mistake was that he was betting with illegal bookies, which ultimately led him down the primrose path to the inevitable symbiotic relationship that we saw exposed last week.   The NCAA certainly doesn’t have the institutional wisdom or resources that the NBA has, but the above measures (and those outlined yesterday by the ACC and Big Ten) leave us asking for considerably more… 

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It Happens More Than We Think

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2007

Now that we’ve had a few days to mull over our thoughts with respect to this Tim Donaghy scandal, and after watching the Commish and High Priest of All Things Basketball grin and bear it through an excruciating (for him) press conference yesterday, we still find ourselves circling back to our initial thoughts when the news broke.

It happens more than we think.   

Sports Betting is Cool 

Yes, it’s horrible and it shows a lack of oversight of its refs by the L and it calls into question the very integrity of the game that Stern and his predecessors have worked so hard for so long to  ensure… 

And it raises valid questions about the possibility of other officials involved, other leagues involved, other (gasp) players involved, the plausibility of collusion, whether this is an isolated incident, and what, if anything, the lords of professional and amateur sports can do to contain it or snuff it out completely… 

And yet, the simple answer is that they can’t.

We like to imagine that this kind of thing can only happen in far-flung places in sports far inferior to ours, the kinds of places where officials have one foot on the field and one in the smoky backroom pub scene that gives rise to the incentive in the first place (are we talkin’ about this or are we talkin’ about this??).  The kinds of places where institutional shadiness is the rule for getting anything done.   The kinds of places where judges fix Olympic matches and sporting heroes are eliminated for their on-field transgressions.  After all, we live in the USA –  the land of internal controls and open transparency and due diligence and audit trails and CYA and watchers of the watchers of the watchers, right?  Right?

So how much are your Enron or Worldcom shares worth these days? 

So where are those shifty WMDs located after all?

So when does OJ come up for parole again at San Quentin?  

Sports Bookie  

Does Your Guy Offer Teasers?

This is not to say that we buy into the avalanche of conspiracy theories that were already surrounding the NBA prior to last Friday.  All those chirping Suns fans need to pipe down – Donaghy betting the Over didn’t make your team lose.  However, we also mustn’t keep our heads in the sand here.  Stern told us yesterday and he’s going to preach the mantra again and again that this was an isolated incident of a lone gunman referee.  But doesn’t your gut tell you that, while Donaghy probably acted alone here, there have been others in the past?  Maybe there are others now? 

When we heard that the ACC, attempting to capitalize on the NBA’s bad publicity to tout its own integrity, stated that they spend $135 on a background check of each of its officials, we couldn’t contain our hearty guffaws.  The Big Ten makes an identical claim.  While kudos are in order that these two leagues are doing something to show that its hired hands possess a modicum of integrity, we know for a fact that a simple background check revealing a very basic civil/criminal and credit history gives minimal information with respect to whether someone is a closet gambler or would become compromised to the point of taking money to impact spreads.  How do we know this?  Well, as we were formerly under the employ of a company specializing in “security consulting,” we understand that any deliverable under $1000 each for this type of work will be fraught with gaping holes in coverage and generally suspect as a useful tool – it’s simply not enough.

And what about the 29 other D1 leagues and their officials?  Is anyone doing background checks on these guys?  Is anyone evaluating their calls with the same gusto that the NBA and NFL does (and yet, Donaghy still slipped under the radar until the FBI overheard his name on its mob-related wiretaps).  According to Stern, Donaghy (a 13-year veteran) was making a hefty $260k/year (a first-year NBA official will make $85k).  MLB umpires start at $88k and range up to $300k/year.  As essentially part-timers, NFL referees make between $42k – $121k/year.  What about NCAA refs?  In college basketball, they work as independent contractors and get paid approximately $2000 per game – as an example, Ted Valentine worked 98 games last season, so his annual salary would have been $196k.  In college football, the requirement of more officials equals less pay, averaging around $1100 per game for each.

Referee with Bob Knight   

Is $100k-$200k Enough for NCAA Refs? 

Where there’s a vacuum, there is an incentive.  At the professional level, the officials on the floor/field make at best 10% of the league average of the players.  In college officialdom, the money isn’t as good as their professional peers and the oversight is accordingly weaker.  What this means is that, if done correctly selectively, by keeping it completely to yourself (read: online betting using false credentials and third-party transaction services – hello IRS audit!) or with one trusted associate, and appropriately obfuscating the winnings, it is virtually impossible to determine whether a Mountain West or Sun Belt or Big 12 or SEC official is influencing pointspreads and/or outcomes for personal enrichment.  He could earn several extra thousand dollars per week (not enough to move the Vegas lines) without so much as an eyebrow raised.       

The professional leagues like to claim that this never happens, but we already know that it does.  What about the Black Sox scandal of 1919, Pete Rose, Tim Donaghy and even perhaps the sacred cow of the NFL, who according to investigative writer Dan Moldea, at least seventy games were fixed throughout the 1950s-70s?  At least nowadays we can rest assured that these leagues are on notice for corruption, even if as in the case here with Donaghy, it is not outed earlier.   The NCAA environment, however, is more ripe for corruption of this type, with its witch’s brew of amateur players, not-as-well-compensated officials and an incredible lack of oversight from most leagues.  Can the Pac-10, for example, show how each official calling games in its league did ATS and O/U for the last four years to sniff out evidence of possible corruption?  Doubtful.   

Flamingl LV

Found in John Clougherty’s Pockets!

A recent statistical analysis from the Wharton School at Penn suggests that one percent (~500) of NCAA basketball games from 1989-2005 fell into an outlier that suggests gambling-related pointspread corruption.  This dovetails with a 2003 NCAA report that states that 1.1% of NCAA football players and 0.5% of NCAA basketball players accepted money to play poorly in a game (extrapolating from the sample suggests that this affects ~21 basketball and ~112 football players annually).  Somehow the math isn’t adding up (500 games/17 seasons = ~30 affected games/year in NCAA basketball) – what could possibly account for that difference? 

While we can’t find an example of an NCAA official becoming involved in a pointshaving scandal like what we’ve seen at Boston College, Arizona State and Northwestern in recent years, we have no doubt that it occurs – much like Donaghy until he got busted, they’re probably just better at hiding it.     

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