It is shocking that college players, with the previous scandals still fresh in everyone's mind, should yield to the temptation of a fast and easy dollar. But the reasons are plain to any sophisticated observer.
When a school uses all manner of sly and under-the-table inducements to recruit a player, when it allows him to slide through college on a ridiculously easy academic schedule, when alumni slip him pocket money, buy him clothes and generally fawn on him to keep him happy, when, in short, a player realizes that everyone around him is winking at the rules of proper behavior, he is prepared to take further steps in the wrong direction. As a matter of fact, by accepting the blandishments of college and alumni, he is already committed to wrongdoing, and the only question remaining is how far he feels he can safely go along that path. Those players who accepted the bribes of gamblers obviously felt that shaving points was safe enough.
It is just as obvious that much of this corrupting atmosphere could be swept away by strict enforcement of recruiting rules and elimination of academic double standards—one for athletes, one for other students. It has to be faced that this would lower the near-professional standards of play of the top basketball schools, in fact would (in football parlance) de-emphasize college basketball as a big-time sport. But college basketball does not belong in places like Madison Square Garden—where, as Roger Kahn points out in his profile of Ned Irish (see page 39), professional gamblers can be spotted any basketball night, filling telephone booths and acting as if they owned the place.
But let no one think that deemphasizing the sport, eliminating the academic double standard and removing games from the atmosphere of big-time commercialism will be enough to 'solve the problem.
College athletics demand closer supervision. The NCAA, like supervisory bodies in various pro sports, should have a security arm whose members are perpetually on the lookout for possible trouble. The mere common knowledge that such a security force exists would have an inhibiting effect on youngsters tempted by an easy buck.
There is no sense in clucking over what a sad thing it is to have to spy on college students. It has now been clearly demonstrated that this is necessary. With the tremendous amount of betting on all sports there always will be a gambler looking for the kind of edge he can get by bribing a player, a coach, a referee. Professional sports officials know this and guard against it. The colleges must do the same.
There are many who hold that the basic cause of a scandal of this sort is the whole moral climate of our times, the prevalence of a something-for-nothing philosophy that affects us all. Even if this is true, it is not an argument against having a police force. Let's improve that climate, by all means. Hopefully, we can improve it to the point where we no longer have to have policemen. Until that day, college sport needs a cop on the beat.
The NCAA, governing body of college athletics, has in the past displayed more eagerness to bury scandals than to expose them. If it fails to act with vigor now, emergency measures will have to be considered by those who have the interests of the game at heart.