NCAA betting on campaign to slow gambling


Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

ORLANDO — FBI agents were dispatched last year to talk with players at the NCAA tournament about gambling.

It became clear they were needed when a couple athletes got text messages from gamblers seeking inside information, an NCAA official said Friday.

In further efforts to stem wagering among athletes, the NCAA on Friday launched a Web site narrated by former college and NBA star Clark Kellogg and is advising universities against things like gambling ads in arenas and "Las Vegas night" fundraisers.

Kellogg's video tells student-athletes they should know two things: they can't bet on any college or pro sporting event or provide information to anyone who does. The NCAA has been pushing a strong anti-gambling message since a 2003 survey showed a staggering number of athletes were involved in some form of gaming.

Deana Garner, the NCAA's associate director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities, said some players questioned the gaming speeches during the tournament.

"This is a very real issue. It is a dark issue, it's an issue that a lot of people don't like to talk about," she said.

The Friday launch of dontbetonit.org came on the first day of the NCAA convention, an annual event in which college sport's governing body votes on rule changes and organizes talks on student-athlete issues.

Before it ends Monday, the NCAA is expected to consider a number of new rules. One of the more talked-about proposals would ban or limit coaches' use of text messages and social networking Web sites to contact recruits. A 2004 change allowed text messages with much fewer limits than phone calls, under the impression they'd be less intrusive. However, some of the nation's top recruits say they are getting inundated with texts, many with dozens per day.

Division III is expected to consider limiting the participation of male players in female practices, a decision that could prompt similar changes in the NCAA's two upper tiers. The association's Committee on Women's Athletics issued a statement last month saying men in women's practices "violates the spirit of gender equity and Title IX." Proponents of males in practice say they've made women more competitive players.

Sportsmanship and ethics were also expected to play a prominent role, after the sideline-clearing melee between Miami and Florida International in which 31 football players were suspended.

NCAA President Myles Brand will give his state of the association speech today.

The Web site narrated by Kellogg, a former Ohio State player who now does television analysis, has separate tracks for coaches and players, and tells athletes they can't wager in pools, on Internet sports books or even on games that don't involve their colleges. They're also instructed not to tell gamblers about things like injuries or team morale.

Garner said the NCAA was focusing on Divisions II and III, despite the fact that their games are lower-profile, because they showed a higher incidence of wagering. She said surveyed athletes indicated it was partly because they didn't understand the rules against gambling.

Eric Toliver, associate athletic director at UNLV, said he'd been forced to investigate one report of an athlete gambling in 14 years, and it was bogus. However, he said the effort to clear the students' name exposed to him a dangerous gambling underworld.

"I've been on stakeouts, we've followed people around, and it is a dark, murky world for people involved in sports wagering," he said. "They're always changing cars, they have five different licenses. You'd be shocked to know that these people don't just live in Las Vegas. These individuals are on your campus."

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