Veteran referee hopes NFL can avoid NBA-like betting scandal Print
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Thursday, 02 August 2007 12:54
NFL Headline News

 SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) -When veteran NFL referee Walt Coleman heard about the former NBA official accused of betting on games, he got sick to his stomach.
``Our standard has to be higher than anybody else in the league, and we understand that,'' Coleman said Thursday. ``We are the integrity of the game. Without our integrity ...''
Coleman didn't finish the sentence.
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is the target of an FBI investigation for allegedly betting on NBA games, including some he officiated.
Coleman, a 19-year NFL veteran who has worked two conference championship games, is hopeful the NFL's background checks and evaluations will prevent a similar scandal. But NBA commissioner David Stern thought he had a good system, too.
``I've been in officiating for over 30 years, and I've never been where I thought there was somebody who was trying to play games with things,'' Coleman said. ``But you just don't know. You hope that is the case.''
Coleman was part of a group of officials who visited the Carolina Panthers training camp to review rule changes and points of emphasis for the 2007 season. This year's presentation had added importance because of the Donaghy investigation.
``We have a big clinic every year in Dallas - all 117 of us,'' Coleman said. ``And Milt Ahlerich, the head of security for the NFL, talks to us every year, and every year the first topic is gambling. It's the first topic every year - about who you are hanging around with, who your friends are. Don't do this or that.
``And you hear that and you think, 'Well, how can this happen?' Because you know the NBA is doing the same thing.''
Coleman said NFL officials are banned from betting on any sports year-round and visiting any casino, or horse or dog track during the season. He said officials can visit a casino or track in the offseason but must inform the league office beforehand. Officials also undergo regular background checks.
Coleman said he believes one advantage for the NFL is that most officials don't make the league until they reach their 40s. Donaghy was 27 when he entered the NBA.
Wayne Mackie, entering his first season as an NFL head linesman, said it took him 15 years to work through the high school, college and minor league ranks.
Coleman, who made the famous ``tuck rule'' call in the Oakland-New England playoff game six years ago, also believes it would be more difficult for a football official to influence a game.
``Basketball is so fast, and there is so much going on,'' Coleman said. ``I think (football) would be much harder. To throw someone out of a game they have to get in fights. Not to say it couldn't happen. I just think it's much more difficult with all of the evaluations and the way the plays work, I think it would be extremely difficult.''
Coleman said he expects the NFL to tighten several policies. Officials already have received an e-mail saying the league is increasing the frequency of background checks.
And Coleman acknowledged the NBA betting scandal puts every official in every sport under the microscope.
``It's like having cold water thrown in your face when you see something like that,'' Coleman said. ``It's too bad, because it does reflect on all of us.''
 

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