Gambling issue looms as hot topic Coaches seek solution to potential epidemic

Men's notebook

March 28, 1998|By Don Markus and Paul McMullen | Don Markus and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SAN ANTONIO -- The conversations among the coaches here for the Final Four ran through the usual range of topics: Who's going to get hired where, and who's going to get fired when.

Yesterday, that talk was overshadowed by the latest allegations of point-shaving, this time involving players at Northwestern during the 1994-95 season.

"That is so sad," said Utah coach Rick Majerus. "I couldn't imagine not wanting to win and wanting to take money."

But others said that they were not surprised to hear the news in what has the makings of becoming an epidemic in college sports, given similar situations in basketball at Arizona State during the same season and with the Boston College football team two years ago.

"If it's happening at schools like Boston College and Northwestern, who's safe?" said Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien, who left Boston College a few months after the gambling allegations came to light. "It's just a small aspect of what our society is about right now."

George Washington coach Mike Jarvis, president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said that recent legislation that could allow athletes to work during the off-season might make them even more susceptible to gamblers.

"The more you put them in touch with boosters and fans," Jarvis said, "the more you put them at risk."

Coaches have been trying to educate their players for decades about the dangers of gambling, ever since the sport was tarnished during the scandals of the 1950s.

But the most recent allegations will renew efforts by the coaches to warn -- and even scare -- their players. A discussion on what coaches can do was added to an already crowded agenda at yesterday's NABC meeting.

Xavier coach Skip Prosser said that the NCAA is fighting a losing battle since gambling has become so prevalent in society, the most recent addition coming via the Internet.

"It's government sponsored in terms of lotteries, and there's very little in the way of moral indignation," said Prosser. "It's something kids get thrown in their face every day. They pick up the newspaper and see the point spreads. They listen to guys on the radio promise they can help pick winners."

Said Stanford guard Arthur Lee: "It's tough. I guess guys see all the money out there and see that it can be available to them and they figure they have an opportunity to get their hands on some of it. But I guess you just have to say no, stay away from it. I guess guys have different situations that they feel they can take advantage of, because they feel like they don't have anything to lose and they can get away with it."

The NCAA is currently running a campaign, sending out posters with the slogan, "Don't Bet On It" to member schools.

"The posters are intended to impact both student-athletes and staff members alike," said Bill Saum, the NCAA agent and gambling representative who helped create the poster. "This will help guarantee that our message against legal and illegal sports wagering in intercollegiate athletics is getting across loud and // clear."

L Whether that message is being heeded is a matter for debate.

One of the posters was in the Utah dressing room here at the Alamodome.

It was crumpled up and tossed in a garbage can.

Been there, done that

Kentucky has five players who were members of its 1996 national championship team. Only two, Allen Edwards and shooting guard Jeff Sheppard, played in the final against Syracuse. How athletic is Sheppard? He high-jumped 7 feet at the Georgia state track and field championships in 1993.

Facing a stellar point guard is not a new experience for North Carolina. The Tar Heels dealt with Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves in the Midwest Regional semifinals and Connecticut's Khalid El-Amin in the regional final. Cleaves went only 7-for-21 from the field, but El-Amin made 10 of his 16 shots and had a game-high 24 points.

Pub Date: 3/28/98

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