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NCAA looks into student-athlete gambling

BY CLARK CAHILL | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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Throwing down money on fantasy football and the ever-popular March Madness brackets at the end of the NCAA basketball season are common-place for many people, including college students.

But for student-athletes at the college level, these activities are a violation of NCAA rules.

A recent study from the NCAA on sports wagering and its student-athletes has found its members have made progress in educating college athletes on the dangers of gambling.

The study was the second of its kind after the NCAA surveyed student-athletes in 2004. The survey, which included data from about 20,000 student-athletes found improvements in frequent or heavy gambling — gambling once per week — but social levels of sports wagering has actually increased.

Around 30 percent of male student-athletes reported sports gambling in the past year.

“The research is another indicator that no campus is immune to sports wagering issues and every school needs to be diligent in its efforts to educate its student-athletes,” Rachel Newman Baker, the NCAA director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities, said in a statement. “We are encouraged the research provides a positive indicator that our efforts to date have been effective, and we will also use the guidance for additional educational endeavors.”

The study found male student-athletes greatly outnumber female student-athletes in sports wagering. For baseball, 12.7 percent of players reported wagering on sports once per month or more, while men’s basketball reported 10 percent and football tallied 9 percent.

This is a stark contrast to women’s golf, which reported the highest number of sports gambling for a female sport at 1.3 percent.

Golf appears to be the NCAA’s biggest challenge in curbing gambling because men’s golf reported the highest rate of student-athletes who admitted to sports wagering. Approximately 40 percent of Division-I men’s golfers said they have bet on sports in the past year, while 8 percent said they gamble weekly.

Iowa junior golfer Vince India said he was not surprised by the statistic.

“This is my guess, but if you look at the golf demographic, many of them come from wealthier backgrounds,” India said. “It takes money to play golf, and it is not surprising that golfers might spend money on some type of gambling.”

India said he believes most Iowa student-athletes are aware of the rules about sports wagering, but said it happens anyway. The university has not put a huge emphasis on education about gambling, he said.

“I think they are more concerned about academic eligibility, drug testing, and sexual harassment,” he said. “But I could see them putting an emphasis on it in the next few years with the new casino in Riverside.”

Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims said the athletics department goes over the regulations about gambling the NCAA releases every year with its student-athletes.

“We talk about gambling in general with them and how it can lead to people trying to get information out of them,” Mims said. “We are concerned about the involvement in those activities and we point that out to them.”

The department has had FBI agents talk to its student-athletes about the dangers of organized crime in past years as well, he said.

Mims admitted the age of technology makes it difficult to monitor these activities.

“With the Internet and online wagering, it’s kind of tough to stay on top of it all,” he said. “But with athletes, it is pretty cut and dry. If they are found in violation, we will take action and will not hesitate to bring the information to the public.”


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