They Just Don't Get It
The eight-game suspension imposed last week on Maryland senior quarterback Scott Milanovich seems like due vigilance by the NCAA. There's little question that Milanovich broke rules, having admitted to wagering a total of $200 on six college basketball and football games, none of them involving the Terrapins. But by explaining that Milanovich was penalized so heavily because he bet with an off-campus rather than a student bookie, the NCAA bared its ignorance of the scope and conduct of campus gambling. As SI detailed in a recent three-part series (April 3, et seq.), campus gambling is rampant, and the majority of bookies are students. The idea that off-campus bookies are more likely than their on-campus counterparts to encourage point shaving because they're connected to organized crime, as the NCAA has asserted, is a dated stereotype. Student bookies handle thousands of dollars in action every week and often have ties to off-campus bookmakers. The student bookies' clients include athletes, sometimes bitter about their relative poverty in a climate of billion-dollar TV contracts. For athletes, these conspicuous riches are a more likely lure for corruption than any wise-guy scheme.
The NCAA also levied one-game suspensions against three other Maryland football players and handed basketball reserve Matt Raydo a 20-game sentence. The most significant factor cited to justify Raydo's stiff penalty was the line of credit he had secured with a bookie. That reasoning is ridiculous. Anyone who knows anything about gambling is aware that bookies commonly extend credit; that Raydo secured such a line of credit does not provide a reliable measure of his betting.
The NCAA's only defense against campus gambling is the pledge that student-athletes sign, vowing neither to gamble nor to provide gambling information on college events. Most athletes don't bother to read this treatise, which is a sorry stopgap anyway. Individual schools are left to educate their athletes about gambling's dangers. Some do, many do not.
The encouraging aspect of Milanovich's suspension is that other athletes may be dissuaded from placing bets. The discouraging thing is that it shows that the NCAA still doesn't understand the problem.
Another Dumb Rule
The Little League Baseball Tournament rule book is just as overwrought and anachronistic as the NCAA's. Twenty tykes from two Southern California Little League all-star teams were declared ineligible for a district tournament because they played in a benefit tournament. The event raised money for the community and honored the memory of a local child who died last year.
The big boys over at Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., said that the 20 players from the Vaquero and Verdugo leagues outside Los Angeles violated Regulation IV-a. Under old IV-a, no more than six players from a Little League tournament team "may participate on another team except authorized elementary and junior high school teams." Rather than replace the players, the two teams forfeited their eligibility.
While Williamsport officials acknowledge the noble intentions of the players, they refused to reinstate them. Apparently, in the eyes of Little League, charity does not begin at home plate.
Mired in the Past