The Mid-American Conference currently has checks and balances in place on its officials to thwart gambling scandals like the one facing the NBA, but commissioner Rick Chryst isn't naive enough to believe a similar ordeal can't happen in his league.
"You think about it, you worry about it," said Chryst on Monday. "For every commissioner, those are situations that you think about, and you try and be as prepared as you can be."
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy is under federal investigation for allegedly betting on games he officiated. Federal authorities are exploring whether Donaghy made calls to affect the point spread in games on which he placed bets over the past two seasons.
Chryst, now entering his eighth year as MAC commissioner, said Monday that he hasn't had a conference official -- in any sport -- suspected of gambling but there have been circumstances that prompted the league to, "look deeper."
"When we have, we've been satisfied that there wasn't more there," he said. "But as a regular manner, and particularly now with added awareness of gambling, it's prompting everyone to scrutinize what their doing."
Chryst is already dealing with a gambling scandal in the MAC with a player. In March, Toledo football player Harvey "Scooter" McDougle was charged in U.S. District Court in Detroit with betting on a Toledo football game and recruiting other university football and men's basketball players to engage in point-shaving. The case is pending.
"It doesn't discriminate by size of school, by sport or by economic status," Chryst said. "I don't think you can ever be complacent that it's not going to be your issue at any point in time."
The NCAA currently does background checks on all officials who work bowl and NCAA tournament games, and Chryst said the MAC is in sync with the NCAA programs. But in the future the league could conduct its own extensive background checks, and Chryst wouldn't rule out utilizing former FBI and CIA agents.
"The NCAA is not going to be passive on it," Chryst said. "It's going to prompt all 11 I-A conferences to double back and analyze what we're doing. It's something that I'll visit with our council presidents on, and it's something we'll talk about among our [athletic] directors. As a matter of business and now even more so as a matter of timing, we're going to scrutinize what we're doing in essence of can and should we be doing more."
The men's basketball officiating in the MAC has raised some eyebrows to say the least.
Circumstances involving the University at Buffalo over the years are marked with intrigue like the bizarre finish to last year's Bowling Green game at Alumni Arena, which led to a profanity-laced tirade by former Falcons coach Dan Dakich. In 2005, two Kent State graduates officiated the UB-Kent State game in which the Bulls lost in overtime. That loss, with the East Division title still on the line, perhaps cost the Bulls an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
But Chryst said he is encouraged by the presence of Rick Boyages, the league's director of men's basketball operations and Sam Lickliter, the coordinator of men's basketball officials. Both have been with the conference for three years.
"[Boyages] has elevated our communication with our coaches, and Sam has elevated our accountability," Chryst said. "We're still growing the program but I feel better about where our officiating is now than I did three years ago. I see a blueprint and our coaches see a blueprint for where it can go."