Wagering increases on campus Struggle is to control students and athletes

November 08, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mike Preston contributed to this article.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said yesterday that universities have to take stronger measures to eliminate "the organized gambling element" from their campuses in order to prevent problems like those that led to this week's suspension of 13 Boston College football players.

"People get tired of me saying this, but this is not an athletic issue; this is an institutional issue," Tranghese said. "There's a major difference between a couple of kids betting in a pool and what seems to be going on across the country. We have our heads in the sand until something like this happens."

What happened has rocked the Boston College campus and has sent reverberations throughout the country. An investigation by university officials in conjunction with the Middlesex County (Mass.) District Attorney's office indicates that the football players made bets through bookmakers ranging from $50 to $1,000 on college football, pro football and baseball, including the World Series.

But the most damaging allegation was that two of the players bet against the Eagles for their Oct. 26 game against Syracuse.

Though there has been no evidence of point-shaving -- affecting the final score relative to the point spread -- the incident at Boston College dredged up memories of what happened there nearly 20 years ago. Rick Kuhn, a member of the Eagles' basketball team, was charged with point-shaving in six games during the 1978-79 season. Kuhn was later given a 10-year prison sentence.

It has also recalled what happened at Tulane in 1985, when a couple of members of the basketball team, including star John "Hot Rod" Williams, were alleged to have fixed two games. Though the charges were never proved, they served as the impetus for an internal investigation that led school president Eammon Kelly to suspend the program for four years.

"It had a dampening effect, a devastating effect on the spirit and morale of the university community -- the faculty, the staff, the students and the other sports teams," Kelly said earlier this week. "I don't think the healing process began when the basketball program was terminated. I think it took a lot longer than that."

Kelly, who was a high school basketball player in the Bronx during the college basketball point-shaving scandal that brought down a number of New York schools as well as national powerhouse Kentucky in the early 1950s, called his actions of a decade ago, "a difficult decision, but I believe it was the right decision."

There has been no speculation about suspending the Boston College football program.

"Shutting down a football program doesn't accomplish much, in my opinion," said Tranghese. "It's not the appropriate action to take."

Tranghese said that what happened at Boston College was similar to what took place last year at Maryland, where quarterback Scott Milanovich was found to have bet on NFL games. Milanovich was suspended by the NCAA for four games after appealing an initial suspension of eight games. Wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, now a member of the Ravens, was suspended for one game. Maryland basketball player Matt Raydo also was suspended.

"Athletes are just like regular students, and gambling is a big thing in college," Lewis said yesterday. "But if you're an athlete, it's against the rules. I made a mistake and it was because I was young, and I think a lot of athletes make the same mistake because they are young and don't know any better.

"It's easy to get caught up in it, because a lot of the other students are doing it. In college, you really don't have much money. It's just a way of trying to make some extra money."

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said yesterday that the incident involving Milanovich has brought a heightened awareness to the College Park campus but that getting a handle on how much gambling currently goes on there is difficult to do. "It's like trying to grab a cloud," she said. "It's kind of unwieldy."

Gary Pavela, director of judicial programs at Maryland, said that the school has stepped up its effort to educate students on the pitfalls of gambling. "We had a former mob enforcer for gambling who's now in the witness protection program speak to a number of fraternities earlier this year," Pavela said.

Even more is done with the school's athletes, Yow and Pavela said.

"There is so much attention, so many warnings posted in locker rooms," Pavela said. "I'd be very surprised if it were still happening with any of our athletes. At the same time, it's hard to completely eradicate gambling when you pick up the newspaper or watch television and see the state advertising it."

Tulane's Kelly said that the commercialization of college athletics lends itself to students not only watching and going to games, but betting on them as well. Though the Green Wave is considered one of the country's top basketball teams Kelly said he is confident that history won't repeat itself at Tulane.

"Everyone knows how we will respond to inappropriate behavior," Kelly said.

Neither Boston College coach Dan Henning nor the NCAA has determined the length of the penalties for those suspended. In light of what happened there, at least one student didn't seem surprised.

"If you go to any other Division I school, I guarantee 50 percent of the players make bets," sophomore Tom Clayton told the New York Times. "They're getting suspended, and they should be suspended. You never want any of your players to bet against your own team."

Pub Date: 11/08/96

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