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ALARUMS IN THE GYM
A new rule governing the issuance of press credentials is in effect at the NCAA basketball tournament. As approved at the NCAA convention last January in San Francisco, no credentials for any national championship will be issued to tout sheets or to organizations that "regularly" promote or advertise such sheets. Newspapers that publish point spreads or occasional ads for tout sheets aren't affected.) Several people have already been barred from tournament press boxes, including representatives of Basketball Weekly and The Gold Sheet.
The NCAA's action reflects growing concern over the volume of betting on college basketball. Alarums have previously been sounded by a number of college sports information directors who have refused to accredit representatives of tip sheets at regular-season games. And Indiana Coach Bobby Knight recently warned, "There's too much easy money. There are unsavory characters around. I don't think coaches are concerned enough."
Nobody is so naive as to think that the denial of press credentials will curb gambling. The fact is that the new NCAA policy is mainly a symbolic gesture. Still, the problem that inspired it is real. A few years ago several college sports information directors formed a Gambling Awareness Committee to call attention to such practices as bookies posing as sportswriters to get inside information. The family of one of the S.I.D.s, St. John's Bill Esposito, received threatening phone calls. Esposito and others fear that heavy betting could result in point-shaving scandals like those that rocked college basketball in the early '50s and again in the '60s.
"At practices, all sorts of characters hang around the gym," Esposito says. "Someone hurts an ankle and it's out in five minutes. We get phone calls from Idaho asking our game times here in New York. Why? Because there's a time limit on when they can take bets. I was a student at St. John's right before the '51 scandal and I had just started as S.I.D. when the second one hit in 1960, and I see all the same signs today."
SIS BOOM BLAH
The scent of money—not always gambling money, but money just the same—was in the air at the three-day Atlantic Coast Conference tournament two weeks ago in Greensboro, N.C. The winner was North Carolina. The loser was the notion that college athletics should be a diversion for college students.
Each of the ACC's seven schools was allotted 2,191 tickets, but no school made more than 269 of its tickets available to students. Most chose instead to reward their fattest fat cats. North Carolina earmarked a grand total of 100 tickets for students and the rest for boosters who had donated at least $8,100 to the school's deftly named Education Foundation, which solicits contributions for athletic scholarships. A book of tickets for the four sessions cost $40, so those Tar Heel boosters, in effect, were paying more than 200 times face value to attend the tournament.
Not that the few students who came up with tickets always used them. Many sold them at a profit to scalpers, who in turn commanded $150 or more for a four-ticket book. There probably were no more than 1,000 students in the 15,753-seat Greensboro Coliseum at any session, and pep bands weren't allowed in until the final night, which could account for the strangely subdued crowds during most of the tournament.
A CLASSY TEAM