Steve Shaw, the SEC’s coordinator of football officials, has always taken the specter of gambling on college football seriously. The Supreme Court’s recent decision that shook up the landscape around sports betting only adds to his concerns.
“I worry about it, but we’ll deal with laws,” Shaw said.
The Supreme Court recently struck down a federal prohibition on sports gambling, which will allow states to make the decision on their own, leading SEC administrators and coaches to spend a large part of their spring meetings last week trying to figure out how to deal with possible changes. The league’s football officials already have been submitting to yearly background checks, Shaw said.
“We’ve always had that concern,” he said. “Gambling is total taboo for our guys, and I think this will ratchet it up. I worry about what this does. I don’t have the answers. We are going to talk about it. We are going to have people who understand that world and how you can be approached come talk to us.”
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Shaw, who served as a referee in the SEC for 15 years and has officiated two national championship games, is worried simply about the optics of his officials being associated with any kind of gambling. When he was an executive at AT&T, he inherited a territory that already had a conference scheduled at a casino in Mississippi. Shaw called the casino and threatened to cancel the event unless he was given a route into the area where he had to speak without walking through the casino floor.
“I went through the kitchen,” he said.
When current SEC officials visit Las Vegas for a corporate event, they are expected to notify the league beforehand, Shaw said. While he stopped short of saying he would fire any official who was found to have gambled in any form in a casino, he did call it a fire-able offense.
“We would take in all of it as information, but we don’t want our guys at a blackjack table or any other table,” he said. “If you have to go out there for work, get your work done. Don’t be gambling. It’s not good and healthy for what we do.”
Shaw wants his officials to be wary of people not only who overtly try to manipulate officials for gambling purposes but also anyone who is covertly trying to gain information to get an edge.
“Just the concerns of how you could be approached, what information you could give, people are crafty looking for an edge,” he said. “You just have to watch your water cooler talk.”