NCAA act wearing thin

July 10, 2001 4:43 AM
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How would Lou Holtz like it if I flew to South Carolina to lecture his football team about how to operate a ball-control offense.

On the way, I would stop in Tennessee and tell Memphis basketball coach John Calipari how to successfully recruit.

Then on my way home, I would visit Bo Schembechler in Michigan and tell him the right way to run the football.

These three were among the many college coaches and officials who gathered in Washington two weeks ago to reapply pressure on Congress to outlaw college wagering in Nevada.

Like these guys have any meaningful insights into Nevada’s legal sports gaming industry. Some of their comments were so naïve, ignorant and plain hypocritical as to be beyond belief.

For instance, Penn State basketball coach Jerry Dunn said wagering on college sports “takes away from the very innocence of our game.”

Please. Innocence? What decade are you living in Jerry?

Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., and former Nebraska head football coach, said players face added pressure because of the point spread.

Want to know what pressure is, it’s Notre Dame going into its final regular season game last year knowing a victory meant about $12 million in bowl revenue compared to nothing if they lost and didn’t go to a bowl game.

There is enormous pressure and financial strain on college athletes, and it has nothing to do with covering a point spread.

The NCAA keeps these guys in economic bondage, while reaping the financial rewards from their sweat and blood.

And you know what NCAA? Your recent ”˜dog and pony show’ just may have backfired. If your stunt of parading some 20 coaches around Washington didn’t outright backfire, it sure didn’t produce the intended results of jumpstarting the college betting ban bill.

Neutral politicians are beginning to comprehend that 98 percent of the money wagered on sports comes from outside Nevada.

They understand that without Nevada, there would be no regulatory system in place to sniff out potential trouble areas such as the Arizona State basketball point-shaving scandal.

They’re also realizing the nauseating hypocrisy of the NCAA.

At the same time the coaches were in Washington, a report was released by the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics outlining a “disgraceful environment” in college sports, not to mention low graduation rates among football and basketball players.

This isn’t to say underage betting and addictive gambling aren’t problems. They are serious problems for some, and they can get worse since betting is way up because of the Internet.

But the way to attack this is by higher education instituting anti-gambling programs, teaching people the evils of excessive gambling and increasing penalties for illegal ­­bookmaking.

This is the bill that makes sense, and it’s exactly the one introduced in the House by Nevada representatives Shelley Berkley and Jim Gibbons.

That bill already has 98 co-sponsors. The bill to ban college wagering in Nevada in the House has 48 co-sponsors. At present, the House Republican leadership has not scheduled a hearing on the betting ban bill.

Things aren’t looking up in the Senate either for those like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who want to prohibit college betting in Nevada.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is the most optimistic he’s been since the NCAA began their misguided crusade three years ago.

Following the coaches’ parade of ignorance on Washington, Reid was so confident he told The Associated Press, “The bill won’t pass out of Congress. We’ll kill it. I am confident. I wasn’t confident last year, but I am now. It has lost support.”

Certainly there are reasons to feel this way. Reid is now the second most powerful person in the Senate. He controls what issues come on the floor.

There are two main other factors, too.

“I think the real issue here is gaming money,” said Jon Ralston, the top political analyst in the state. “I think the gaming money is going to buy them out of this.

“They have the House leadership purchased. That’s the most important thing.

“Even if it were to get out of the Senate because John McCain pushed it by attaching it to another bill and forcing a floor vote, I think it’s dead in the House.”

No doubt huge money contributions and Nevada’s powerful gaming lobby have played significant roles in turning things around. The all-out efforts of Nevada’s politicians have aided tremendously, too.

But what Nevada also has had on its side all along is another key factor -being right.

Eliminating Nevada’s little betting industry wouldn’t make the slightest difference in college wagering around the world. It would just be window dressing.

It would make the situation far worse instead.

Finally, at last, people outside the state are beginning to understand that.

What a relief.