If Maryland football players bet on college athletic events, they gambled their eligibility. But unless a university investigation uncovers a large-scale scandal, it's more likely that any Terps who violated NCAA rules would miss only a small portion of next season.
The university has been conducting an investigation into gambling on the football team since early March, when it received an allegation that a player had bet on college games.
Athletic director Debbie Yow said that the investigation, which will last several more weeks, has yet to uncover any evidence that Maryland players bet on their own games. Sources close to the investigation said they don't believe that they are on to the point-shaving or game-fixing that has rocked men's basketball in the past, most recently at Tulane a decade ago.
Any athletes found in violation of the NCAA's prohibition on gambling on college athletics are automatically declared ineligible, but they can appeal to the NCAA, which considers the circumstances.
"There are two different issues here," said Dirk Taitt, who handles gambling violations for the NCAA's enforcement office. "There can be information about allegations suggesting game-fixing and point-shaving, and those are made much more infrequently than those made regarding betting pools and the like.
"There are varying levels of culpability. We look at the amounts of money involved. Was the student-athlete the bookmaker? How innocuous, how egregious, was their involvement? If there is a significant gambling debt, we're interested in how it was paid off, and by whom."
From 1990 to 1994, the NCAA's eligibility committee heard appeals from 15 colleges that had found gambling violations among athletes. In only one case, involving a Division III basketball player who ran a book making operation, did the NCAA deny an appeal for restoration of eligibility.
In every other case but one -- in which no penalties were handed down -- the NCAA restored eligibility after athletes served penalties determined by their colleges or the NCAA.
A wrestler who won between $200 and $250 betting on college basketball sat out the first 25 percent of his team's schedule. A men's soccer player who bet $125 on college basketball and football games was held out of the season opener. A men's basketball player who bet a total of $15 on other college sports missed his team's first three games.
The NCAA does not keep track of more serious instances in which colleges suspended athletes for betting and no appeals were made.
"There are instances in which they don't request restoration of eligibility," said Carrie Doyle, the NCAA's director of eligibility. "I imagine that that probably happens several times a year."
While triggered by a single allegation, the Maryland investigation has not been limited to that unnamed player.
"I can't tell you how many players we've talked to, but it will be a thorough review," said Yow. "The investigation is likely to involve considerable discussion with many people."
Jamie Bragg, a co-captain last year, was questioned during the investigation and said he bet with teammates on NFL games -- which is not an NCAA violation -- and that he participated in betting pools during the NCAA basketball tournament. Bragg said he saw no organized betting among his teammates.
"I've been here five years," Bragg said, "and I never saw anyone on the team bet through a bookie."
The investigation is the latest trouble to hit a program that has struggled on and off the field in recent years.
In the past nine seasons, the Terps have had just one winning record. Coach Mark Duffner has a three-year record of 9-24. Before he had ever coached a game at Maryland, two of his players were suspended for their involvement in the use of a stolen credit card. Quarterback Scott Milanovich missed half of spring practice in 1994 because of an undisclosed violation of university policy.
Two players have been arrested in the past two months.
Cleveland Everhart, a senior linebacker who was suspended after his arrest on burglary charges, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in District Court in Prince George's County next Wednesday.
Brian Underwood, who is one of the Terps' top two running backs, was implicated for his involvement in the use of a stolen telephone credit card. Underwood's case is scheduled to go to trial May 3.
Duffner would not comment on the specifics of the gambling investigation. The NCAA requires its members to inform athletes that betting on intercollegiate athletics is a violation, and Yow said that Duffner "went above and beyond what's expected of a football coach to ensure this wouldn't happen."
"I give the kids a policy and procedure book in every preseason lTC camp," Duffner said. "There's information in there related to gambling, and it's just good common sense to avoid it. We work to educate them."