Gambling is detrimental to college sports

PROVO, Utah (U-WIRE) — A federal panel is on to something.
On Monday, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission included in its recommendations a proposal to ban betting on collegiate sporting events — something that is legal in both Nevada and Oregon.
The following day, Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., called the measure a “ridiculous recommendation that will never be accepted by Congress or the casinos in Nevada,” according to the Associated Press.
While Gibbons might be right that the recommendation will never make its way through Congress, a ban on legalized gambling in college sports is anything but ridiculous.
From the Kentucky Derby to the Super Bowl, gambling is almost as much a part of sports as the actual games themselves. And while the ethics of betting on sports is an issue in itself, one thing is certain: Gambling involving college athletics is a complete violation of the integrity of the sport.
College athletics have enough problems already. The sports pages are filled with reports of recruiting violations, player misconduct and illegal activities involving boosters. From South Bend to Ann Arbor to Boston to Minneapolis, few campuses are immune.
So what effect does gambling have on college athletics? Take a look at the last five years, where on-campus gambling scandals have been piling up faster than Jose Canseco’s traffic violations.
March 1997: Two Northwestern basketball players, Kenneth Dion Lee and Dewey Williams, are charged with point shaving in trying to fix the outcome of three games during the 1994-95 season. Two other men, Kevin Pendergast and Brian Irving, are charged with conspiring to fix the outcome of the games and betting on Northwestern’s opponents in Nevada casinos.
1997: Two Arizona State basketball players plead guilty to point shaving, while 15 fraternities are linked to records of an on-campus illegal gambling ring.
1996: Two Boston College football players are suspended for betting against their own team. Eleven others are also suspended for gambling.
The problem is obviously not going away. Cedric Dempsey, executive director of the NCAA, was quoted by CNNSI as saying, “Gambling is as big an addiction on our campuses as alcohol.”
Brigham Young University head football coach LaVell Edwards agreed.
“I think one of the real problems is gambling on college campuses period,” Edwards said. “It’s a major problem throughout the country. As long as you have it there, it stands to reason that it involves college football.”
Edwards said the reasons college athletes get involved with gambling are varied, from athletes being either greedy, naive or unsuspecting.
And while a large chunk of gambling takes place under the table, any type of legislation that would further divide college athletics from the world of legalized gambling would be a step in the right direction.
“I think it would dramatically reduce the opportunity of getting athletes involved,” Edwards said.
Theoretically, college sports are about competition, not commerce — the opportunity to play and get an education as opposed to an all-out emphasis on winning.
True, this is often not the case, especially when it comes to the revenue sports of football and basketball. But the fact remains that collegiate athletics, in order to fulfill their purpose, must maintain a dignity and standard that is high above that of professional sports — where dollar signs are the singular purpose.
Ever wonder why the NCAA has a book of rules thicker than Mark McGwire’s forearms? When it comes to the college game, too many rules are better than too few. One need not look any further than the list of this decade’s college gambling scandals to understand.

This staff editorial originally appeared in Tuesday’s the Brigham Young University Daily Universe.