NCAA Hot Topic
Sports Wagering

The Threat to Collegiate Athletics

The explosive growth of gambling has caused a noticeable increase in the number of sports wagering-related cases processed by the NCAA and threatens the integrity of college sports.

Big money attracts organized crime and illegal sports wagering is big money. The FBI projected that 2.5 billion dollars was illegally gambled on the 1995 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, second only to the National Football League’s Superbowl. Money skimmed from sports betting schemes is used to fund a host of illegal activities including the sale of narcotics and loan sharking. These activities are never evident to the casual bettor but are not lost on the law enforcement community.

Student-athletes are viewed by organized crime and organized gambling as easy marks. When student-athletes place bets with a bookie, they have jeopardized their eligibility and have broken the law. The bookie now is in control. If a student-athlete is sufficiently indebted or addicted, point shaving often is introduced as a way out. Bookies also use students as “runners” to collect debts and parlay sheets for which the bookie pays a commission. Gamblers also pay a commission for information related to sports teams (e.g., injury reports, morale, game plans and discipline issues).

A study by the University of Cincinnati of 648 Division I intercollegiate men’s basketball and football respondents indicated that 25.5% had gambled money on other college sporting events, 3.7% had gambled money on a game in which they had played, and that 0.5% received money from a gambler for not playing well in a game.

The NCAA’s Position on Sports Wagering

The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering. Sports wagering has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests, and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community. Sports wagering demeans the competition and competitors alike by a message that is contrary to the purposes and meaning of “sport.” Sports competition should be appreciated for the inherent benefits related to participation of student-athletes, coaches and institutions in fair contests, not the amount of money wagered on the outcome of the competition.

For these reasons, the NCAA membership adopted NCAA Bylaw 10.3 prohibiting athletics department staff members and student-athletes from engaging in gambling activities as they relate to intercollegiate or professional sporting events.

NCAA Bylaw 10.3 stipulates that staff members of the athletics department of a member institution and student-athletes shall not knowingly:

a. Provide information to individuals involved in organized gambling activities concerning intercollegiate athletics competition;

b. Solicit a bet on any intercollegiate team;

c. Accept a bet on any team representing the institution;

d. Solicit or accept a bet on any intercollegiate competition for any item (e.g., cash, shirt, dinner) that has tangible value; or

e. Participate in any gambling activity that involves intercollegiate athletics or professional athletics, through a bookmaker, a parlay card or any other method employed by organized gambling.

The NCAA’s Interpretations Committee clarified the scope of Bylaw 10.3 to preclude a student-athlete from soliciting or accepting a bet for a nonmonetary material item that has tangible value. The committee noted, however, that institutions that compete against each other may agree to participate for a tangible item (e.g., governors cup), provided no student-athletes receive any tangible item.

The Interpretations Committee also decided that the prohibition against student-athletes and athletics department staff members participating in gambling activities associated with professional sports events is applicable to those sports in which the Association conducts championship competition, Division I-A football and emerging sports.

In June 1995, the NCAA Eligibility Committee, determined that higher conditions for restoration of eligibility should occur in cases involving gambling and instructed NCAA eligibility staff to begin imposing such standards immediately. Accordingly, the staff reviews prior case precedent from June 1995 to the present in determining the appropriate conditions for restoration involving such cases.

NCAA Initiatives

In response to this problem, the NCAA has enhanced communication lines with the FBI, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball in sharing pertinent information related to gambling and organized crime. Recently, the professional leagues, in conjunction with the FBI, produced a videotape entitled “Gambling With Your Life”, which as proved to be an outstanding tool to educate professional athletes of the pitfalls associated with gambling generally and sports gambling specifically, and also provided a meaningful forum that the professional leagues used to solicit information about persons with possible ties to organized gambling. The NCAA uses this professional-league videotape to educate our member schools’ student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators. The Association also is producing brochures and posters in an effort to bring the message to the schools about sports gambling.

For further information regarding this NCAA program, contact the NCAA’s sports wagering staff at 317/917-6222.