Insider says ‘No’ onNCAA college bet ban

November 28, 2000 7:48 AM
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One of the most influential members on several NCAA committees, athletic director Kelly Higgins of the University of South Dakota, announced he doesn’t support proposed legislation on prohibiting gambling on NCAA-sponsored sports teams.

Higgins, in a letter addressed to the NCAA executive board and to state government representatives, explained why he refused to circulate a letter for athletic directors from member schools to sign expressing support for the measures.

He joins a list of well-known coaches also taking a stand against anti-gambling legislation, including Utah’s Rick Majerus and former Georgetown coach John Thompson.

Higgins, who maintained silence on the matter until recently, offered specific reasons on this sensitive and politically hot topic.

"I have some deep reservations regarding this legislation, and I felt it important that each of you understand my personal convictions on the issue," Higgins wrote. "They are at the core of why I did not forward each of you the letter of support prepared for each athletics director in the NCAA to sign and send to their congressional representatives."

Higgins noted there is "the potential for gambling to affect the integrity of the game," yet his conclusion of the subject match more closely with Nevada gaming advocates.

"I have listened to the rhetoric involved from both sides," he added. "I have studied the history of this issue within intercollegiate athletics. I have seen the effects of gambling on the individual."

The respected director of athletics offers three main rationales for objecting to NCAA proposals. Many were reasons previously stated by gaming advocates, yet he believes they are true and challenges the intent of the NCAA. They include current law, existing oversight of money and information, and the changing times.

gThere already are laws in effect that are meant to protect the integrity of the game, and the best measure to ensure that integrity is to increase our due diligence, vigorously enforce those laws when they are broken, and continue to educate our student-athletes, staff and the public of the ramifications of this violation of our trust," Higgins noted. "Those methods have been used effectively in the past, and will continue to serve us in the future."

Higgins interjected that the NCAA should team up with federal authorities and the gambling industry instead of fighting each other. Such was the case in the recent point-shaving cases, when gaming officials contacted federal authorities about a problem, who then, in turn, contacted the NCAA.

"Currently, the flow of money in Las Vegas is monitored and, from what we’re told, that "flow"of information was critical to the follow-up in the Northwestern and Arizona State cases," said Higgins. "If that flow of money and information is cut off in Nevada, it might limit the amount, and most probably the conduit, of that flow."

"However, if it goes completely underground, off-shore or overseas, how do you police potentially illegal activities (gambling, the fix, etc.) in the future? Even representatives of the NCAA agree that this law will not eliminate gambling. What I fear is that passage of these laws could eliminate one of the best sources used to monitor potentially illegal activity that affects the integrity of the game and makes it harder to accomplish the very goal the NCAA membership, and all true sport fans, wish to achieve."

Higgins also believes many NCAA board members are living in the past, or at least not keeping up with the changing times.

"I’ve seen the political and philosophical pendulum of the American public continue its long history of swinging first one way and then another. It’s hard to tell when that pendulum begins to reverse its course because the people start to believe it has gone too far in one direction," he added. "But I think you all would agree that from a historical perspective, it does happen. Those swings continue to occur because of the imperfect and different ways that we (Americans) apply the extraordinary philosophies espoused in the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights."

"I believe the well-intentioned effort to eliminate gambling on intercollegiate events in the United States is doomed to fail."

However, one contention voiced by the NCAA in support of an amateur sports gaming ban may be reversed shortly. Recently, the Nevada Gaming Control Board held at hearing on reversing a prohibition against betting on Nevada sports teams — specifically, University of Nevada (Reno) and UNLV.

Although NCAA president Cedric Dempsey refused an invitation to attend the hearing, NGCB chairman Brain Sandoval noted the state "plays a key role in protecting the integrity of collegiate games by ensuring that the predatory influences associated with illegal bookmaking outside the state are not left to their own devices."

Other proposals which state gaming regulators are considering include several self-regulations, including banning illegal sports bettors from Nevada casinos by having them blacklisted. Another would prohibit gaming licensees from knowingly accepting wagers from athletes or coaches who participate in intercollegiate sports.

Internet alert

Although Internet gambling is illegal in Nevada, patrons of an off-shore sportsbook should be aware the security of their accounts and credit card numbers may have been compromised recently.

Olympic Sports reports it experienced a security breach of its computer system over a four-day period from Nov. 10-13. According to the company’s press release, the unknown hacker "was able to access our server and retrieve personal information, such as credit card numbers and customer information."

Olympic Sports, based in Jamaica, has taken proactive measures to prevent the reoccurrence of a hack with a patch to its web servers, however, representatives of Olympic believe a rival sportsbook in the Caribbean, possibly the Dominican Republic, may be responsible. Both books utilize the same Microsoft-based software.

Customers are asked to contact Olympic and their credit card company to prevent fraudulent or unauthorized charges due to the security breach.

Dozens of fun

The NCAA Football Certification Subcommittee of the Championships and Competition Cabinet recommended a two-year moratorium on the number of postseason bowl games to the current number of 26.

The subcommittee cited concerns that further proliferation of postseason opportunities might overly tax the number of bowl-eligible teams, particularly in 2002, when teams are eligible to play a 12th regular-season game.