They would always place heir bets on Friday because Saturday they were just too busy. They had to get taped and go to meetings and eat a pregame meal, and, besides, when you were supposed to have your mind on the opponent, it just didn't seem right to go looking for a pay phone to lay down $50 on, say, Florida State minus 14½. So on Fridays during the fall of 1993 these half-dozen or so football players at a Southeastern Conference school would leave their wagers with a friend or a roommate, who would call them in to a bookie on Saturday morning.
"I'd just say to my roommate, 'If the line stays the same tomorrow, give me a quarter [$25] on that game; if the line moves, don't bet on it,' " one of the players told SI on the condition that neither he nor his school be identified. "Whenever I saw a college game I liked, I'd say, 'Get me down on that.' I never paid attention to the scores while I was actually playing, but afterward I'd watch for the games I had bet on. You bet to have fun. It makes the game a little more interesting when you're watching it."
This player, one of three starters in the group, wagered on college and NFL games that autumn, usually betting $25 or $50 a game. "Some guys on the team bet more than me, some guys bet less," he said, adding that he monitored the point spread on his own team's games, though he never bet on them. "I remember our last game of the year. We were favored by a little, and I said, 'God, we're going to win by more than that.' And we did."
His big score came on New Year's Day, 1994, when he won $800 betting on bowl games, putting to use an autumn's worth of inside knowledge. "One game was easy money," he said of a game involving an SEC team, "just real easy money."
As reported in the first two parts of this series, gambling is rampant on college campuses across the country. Students, often bright but naive, bet—and lose—substantial sums of money on sporting events. Other collegians become bookmakers who prey on the innocence of their peers while fancying themselves savvy entrepreneurs. In fact, some of the fervor attached to college sports is an outgrowth of desperate wagering. Yet all of this illegal activity is conducted with much the same acceptance accorded to jaywalking: It's not right, but nobody gets hurt.
That attitude is erroneous, for there is hurt at every level of the gambling process. Athletes who bet or give advice to others who are wagering on games are flying in the face of NCAA regulations, jeopardizing their eligibility and their schools' reputations, and perhaps compromising the integrity of the games. Many students are betting far beyond their means, plunging deep into debt and developing a habit that could haunt them long past college. In the extreme, some undergraduates are even committing criminal acts to get the cash they need to pay bookmakers.
Article 10.3 of the NCAA Manual is titled "Gambling Activities." By the usual standards of such a cumbersome bureaucracy, the rule is mercifully brief:
Staff members of the athletics department of a member institution and student-athletes shall not knowingly:
(a) Provide information to individuals involved in organized gambling activities concerning intercollegiate athletics competition;
(b) Solicit a bet on any intercollegiate team;