Tim Donaghy urged his audience to make good choices

By William K. Alcorn



Former National Basketball Association referee Tim Donaghy, who lost his career because of a gambling addiction and association with criminals, advised Youngstown State University student-athletes to run, not walk, from anybody who wants to pay them money for inside information or anything else.

“It’s about choices. When you make poor choices, they can negatively affect yourself and others,” said Donaghy, speaking to about 400 YSU student-athletes Sunday at YSU’s Beeghly Center. The event was part of the university’s Student Athlete Affairs programming.

Donaghy said his poor choice was getting involved in gambling to the point that the addiction “got out of control and consumed his life.”

Donaghy, an NBA referee for 13 seasons from 1994 to 2007, lost his “dream job” – when he was a top-rated official making about $400,000 a year – for supplying information to gamblers that he gleaned about relationships among referees and coaches and players and using it to predict winners. He gambled on games, including some he refereed, and won 75 percent of his bets.

He said investigations by the FBI and the NBA determined that his gambling never affected the outcome of games, but his gambling addiction trashed his life.

He embarrassed his family, including four young daughters and his father, a top collegiate basketball official. Threatened with a long jail sentence, Donaghy became a cooperating witness for the FBI and was sentenced to 15 months in jail, where he was labeled a rat, he said. About three months into his sentence, a fellow inmate trashed Donaghy’s knee and told him government informers were not liked.

“Gambling had become more important than spending time with my daughters,” said Donaghy, with whom he says he now has good relationships.

“Every night I put my head on my pillow and thought how what I did affected my family,” he said.

Now, he is in the process of putting his life back together.

He said he has full custody of his 15- and 16-year-old daughters, 50-50 custody of his 17-year-old, and his 21-year-old is in college in Florida.

He is in the real-estate business in Florida, has written a book, “Personal Foul,” and gives informational and motivational speeches about his gambling and how he recovered from the addiction.

“I had a lot of daily support from my family and underwent one-on-one private counseling,” he said.

Donaghy ended his presentation by fielding questions from many of the student-athletes.

Two of the student-athletes were freshmen Darshawn Armstrong and Tanner Montgomery, both members of the YSU baseball team.

“I was surprised he [Donaghy] didn’t make calls that affected the outcome of games,” Armstrong said.

Montgomery said he liked the question-and-answer discussion.

“He [Donaghy] was humble and wants to help,” Montgomery said.