To avoid scandals, ACC performs background checks on refs

PINEHURST, N.C. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference has
performed background checks for the past year on game officials in
three sports in an effort to prevent gambling scandals like the one
faced by the NBA.

During an annual wide-ranging news conference Tuesday,
conference commissioner John Swofford also said the league would
decide in December where to host its football championship games in
2008-10 and discussed how the ACC is preparing for another two-year
term coordinating Bowl Championship Series operations beginning in

The dominant issue was the background checks, which Swofford
said were approved by university presidents two years ago and began
last year on officials in football and men's and women's

"It's not a catchall, end-all by any means, but it does show a
proactive way of looking at this and hopefully raising red flags if
there are any to be raised," Swofford said.

About 75 of the roughly 225 officials in those sports will be
investigated each year, and every official's background will be
checked once in a four-year period, said Shane Lyons, the league's
associate commissioner for compliance.

Swofford said the ACC and Big Ten are the only conferences to
implement the checks, which cost $135 apiece.

The ACC-ordered probes, performed by an independent agency,
include an investigation into any ties to gambling on sports,
officials' credit histories and criminal and driving records at the
local, state and federal levels. The NCAA performs similar checks
on officials working its basketball tournaments and bowl games, he

None of the officials investigated showed any warning signs that
might have led to a removal from officiating games, Lyons said.

"There wasn't anything that we saw that concerned us, that
stimulated our belief that we should take this route," Swofford
said. "But this whole issue of gambling is so prevalent in our
society. ... We just simply want to do everything we can
proactively to have that kind of integrity in our officials as well
as our student-athletes."

He said the ACC wants to avoid the gambling scandal faced by the

Former referee Tim Donaghy is under federal investigation for
allegedly betting on games he officiated. Authorities are examining
whether Donaghy made calls to affect the point spread in games on
which he or associates had wagered thousands of dollars over the
past two seasons.

The ACC "tried to educate [athletes] to stay away from any type
of gambling activities," Lyons said. "With that, we talked about
the officials as the next step to protect the integrity of the

As for the league's second turn in charge of the BCS, television
contracts and the format to decide a national champion are the key
issues, Swofford said.

Fox is entering the second year of a four-year deal for the
broadcast rights to the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls until 2010,
and the national title game until 2009. The Rose Bowl has its own
TV deal with ABC, a contract that runs through 2014.

"I think it's become very obvious that we're not going to be to
the point of having a full-blown playoff after the current BCS
ends," said Swofford, who coordinated the BCS in 2000 and 2001.
"I think what we're looking at is some form of a plus-one or the
same format that we have at this point in time."