Maryland is taking steps to learn from mistakes

July 22, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

As the Maryland gambling scandal draws to a close, the university has put on a penitent face.

Quarterback Scott Milanovich will recount his cautionary tale through an outreach program. Mark Duffner, Gary Williams and every other Maryland coach will devote more time to the topic in preseason talks with players. The administration will revise its student-athlete handbook, hire guest speakers and show the official NCAA instructional video on gambling.

Privately, however, some Maryland coaches and administrators, have other feelings.

No one will say anything inflammatory while awaiting next month's appeal of the 20-game suspension the NCAA handed basketball player Matt Raydo, but some at Maryland are angry with the manner in which the eligibility appeals office dealt with Milanovich's case.

They admit Milanovich and other players made mistakes, but they also feel that the senior and the university were unjustly left squirming for nine days.

On six occasions from 1992 to 1994, Milanovich bet a total of $200. Based on NCAA precedents, the infractions called for, at ++ the most, a three-game suspension. Maryland suspended Milanovich for two games, but on July 10, the NCAA eligibility appeals staff extended the suspension to eight games.

Milanovich was "baffled," athletic director Debbie Yow "disillusioned."

Tuesday, the NCAA eligibility committee sympathized with those sentiments when it reduced Milanovich's suspension to four games, a decision that in part led him to return to Maryland instead of applying for the NFL supplemental draft.

Milton R. Schroeder, a professor of law at Arizona State who chairs the eligibility committee, declined to comment on the case since Raydo's appeal hasn't been heard, but an official NCAA statement by Schroeder implied that Milanovich wasn't the only one to make mistakes.

In explaining why Milanovich was handed the largest suspension by the eligibility appeals staff, Carrie Doyle, the NCAA's Director of Eligibility, said Milanovich had dealt directly with an off-campus bookmaker, and thus had run the risk of falling under the influence of organized crime.

Maryland's appeal pointed out, in fact, that was not the case. Maryland's lawyers will not discuss the case, but a lawyer retained by Milanovich for the appeal said the NCAA misinterpreted Maryland's report of its three-month investigation into gambling by student-athletes.

"The NCAA told Maryland that, when filing its report, the term "bookie" was the term to be used for anyone who took bets," said Kevin Dunne, a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Ober, Kaler, Grimes and Shriver. "The NCAA turned around and assumed that meant a professional bookmaker.

"It was only on Monday [of last week] that they were made to recognize their error. They then began to suggest to the media that it was not a significant point, the opposite of what they had said the previous week."

The other major point of Maryland's appeal dealt with the timing of a directive from the eligibility committee that the eligibility appeals staff begin handing down more stringent penalties to violators of fundamental NCAA rules.

The day Milanovich's appeal was heard, David Berst, the NCAA's assistant executive director for enforcement and eligibility appeals, said that directive was issued "before consideration of Maryland's case." The day after, Doyle said otherwise.

Maryland's report wasn't opened until the week of June 19, but Doyle said it was actually received by her office on June 16, the day before her staff attended meetings in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where the eligibility committee laid out its get-tough policy.

"The eligibility committee said it was a mitigating factor, that the appeal was filed prior to the committee's instruction," Doyle said.

Asked her reaction to the reduction of Milanovich's suspension, Doyle said his case illustrated "that the appeals system worked exactly as it was designed to work.

"There are checks and balances to assure fairness," Doyle said. "The [eligibility appeals] staff does its best to evaluate cases in a good-faith basis. The eligibility committee has the opportunity and responsibility to review our work and determine whether we analyzed the facts properly. It's entirely possible that the committee comes up with a different opinion."

Maryland will raise a similar point in Raydo's appeal.

Yow has heard the argument that, because of the attention given gambling by student-athletes in Sports Illustrated and other national media recently, the NCAA wanted to make an example of Maryland. Angry alumni have reminded her of the three-year probation the basketball program received in 1990, and say it doesn't pay to come clean.

"I've never bought into the Maryland paranoia," Yow said. "These kids were wrong, and they deserved to be punished. We stand by our original proposal of a two-game suspension [for Milanovich], but we aren't going to dwell on the difference between two and four games.

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