As a rule, Maryland lacks seriousness NCAA hit may cost Milanovich 8 games

July 11, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

The joke's on you, pal . . . pal meaning anybody who ever read a list of rules and regulations, took them seriously and complied.

More and more these days we are coming to find out that it's not really necessary to live by the golden rule, walk the straight and narrow, do unto others, etc. All that stuff you learned in Civics class in the ninth grade, it's being re-thought.

As for the notion that you could take to the bank the precepts of justice, right and the American way, consider it very shaky as the bank just went into receivership.

The University of Maryland, much to its apparent chagrin, announced last night that four football players and a player on the basketball team will be missing games this coming season because they bet on collegiate athletic contests last year, an NCAA no-no.

The term "apparent chagrin" is used because even before it had been informed of the length of the ineligibility penalties the players would be facing, the school already had filed forms to have said eligibility restored. Makes you wonder how seriously the school takes its own rules.

Flying in the face of this action of specious concern was Debbie Yow, athletic director at College Park, assuring earlier, "We're certainly taking the situation seriously," a reference to the investigation that got under way four months ago when a rumor started making the rounds that "a student athlete" had won money gambling on an intercollegiate game.

Soon joined in the investigation was the school's Office of Legal Affairs and, at one point, present at a meeting in the office of Maryland president William E. Kirwan were Terrapins quarterback Scott Milanovich, his father Gary, school investigators, the athletic director and at least three attorneys, including a special investigator. Now that's serious.

As soon as confirmation was established that the gambling rumor was fact and that "a student athlete" was changed to student athletes, Maryland, in its report to the NCAA, ruled the guilty parties ineligible. Yow said the action was "an NCAA mandate, not our choice."

Later on, the athletic director seemed to talk down the seriousness of the matter by saying, "we still regard this, if people are looking at the possible severity of the situation, in the category of student-athletes having stubbed their toes, not broken any bones. There is a difference."

The school was hoping, of course, that its investigation and subsequent penalties handed down (by outside mandate) plus its full cooperation with the NCAA, keeping it up to date on the internal investigation, would sit kindly with the governing body of college sports.

Actually, there was no precedent to suggest this would be the case, folks at College Park still stewing at the probation and stiff sanctions handed the basketball team a few years ago for indiscretions regarded as minor when compared to some of the things that had gone on in college hoops forever.

The NCAA decreed that three footballers, Jermaine Lewis, Jaron Hairston and Farad Hall, won't be eligible to play in Maryland's grid opener against Tulane Sept. 2. The basketball player, walk-on Matt Raydo, will be required to miss 20 hoop games. All of these individuals gave the school authorization to release their names. The fifth guilty party, a football player who got slapped with an eight-game "suspension," did not.

Earlier, after the investigation was concluded, Scott Milanovich's father confirmed that his son's name was on the report forwarded to the NCAA by Maryland. Scott, living at an apartment off campus while attending summer school and completing 24 semester hours to remain eligible to play after dropping all his classes last fall, was incommunicado.

Similar to baseball, where no-gambling signs number in the millions from rookie leagues on up through the big leagues, all athletes are made aware that betting on college games is strictly forbidden.

That's why Debbie Yow's "stubbed their toes" line is ludicrous. And any complaints by the school that the penalties are too harsh for the crimes are monstrously misplaced. Right is right and wrong is wrong, although considering some of the things people do these days without remonstration suggests that looking the other way has taken over as our national pastime.

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