The NCAA invests in officiating companies

The NCAA invested in two officiating management companies in an effort to improve fairness of college athletics. Working collaboratively with The Arbiter and Excel Sports Officiating , the NCAA will head a new website in 2009 to help athletics on all levels develop a more reliable source for quality officiating. Independent business consultant Claire Roberts has worked with the NCAA for about a year and will be serving as the CEO of both organizations. âÄúThis was not a hostile takeover,âÄù Roberts said. âÄúBoth companies can opt out if they want to.âÄù The goals of the NCAA are to help produce a greater pool of qualified officials through education, certification and more information, Roberts said. New background checks and emphasis on gambling restrictions are main purposes of this program. Former NBA official Tim Donaghy recently began serving his 15-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to betting on games he officiated. NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford said officials were working on preventing gambling issues well before DonaghyâÄôs scandal became public. There is not one incident that influenced the NCAAâÄôs latest efforts, he said. âÄúItâÄôs been on the radar for a long time,âÄù Radford said. âÄúI think itâÄôs fair to say the NCAA is, generally speaking, very proud of their officiating.âÄù University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said officiating is much tougher today because of TV coverage and instant replay. âÄúI always thought great officials had a feel and knew when to throw a flag and when not to,âÄù Maturi said. âÄú[They] canâÄôt do it that way anymore.âÄù Maturi said he expected more instant replay and possibly more officials for each game in the future. The Arbiter is a Utah-based software company that assigns officials to leagues and games. It also coordinates game scores, rosters and other communication responsibilities. According to the NCAA, The Arbiter has more than 240,000 registered officials in amateur sports. Excel Sports Officiating provides educational programs and professional development for more than 50,000 officials . Excel has had a relationship with the NCAA for the last three or four years, Roberts said. Excel and The Arbiter will still remain separate companies and management of those companies will not change, but the NCAA is now the majority shareholder of each company. Financial terms for the agreement have not been disclosed. There is a possibility of getting a return on their investment in the future, Roberts said, but the NCAAâÄôs message was made clear. âÄúThe focus is in the officiating community,âÄù Radford said. âÄúThis isnâÄôt being undertaken as a money-making venture.âÄù