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NCAA: Gambling’s a Potential ‘Cancer’

November 6, 1996

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ With a betting scandal engulfing Boston College, the head of the NCAA called gambling a ``cancer growing in our society.″

``Gambling is a central concern of intercollegiate athletics,″ NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey told The Associated Press. ``And those concerns are heightened because of the changing culture of this country and its attitude toward gambling.″

Last month the NCAA appointed Bill Saum, a former investigator, to a new full-time watchdog position on agents and gambling. Saum has been in Washington all week meeting with FBI experts on gambling.

An NCAA representative said the meetings were only informational and were scheduled before the Boston College scandal broke. The NCAA has not been involved in the BC football investigation.

The district attorney involved in that case said Wednesday two Boston College football players bet against their team in an Oct. 26 loss to Syracuse.

``I don’t know any more about the Boston College case than what I’ve read in the papers,″ Dempsey said.

Although sports betting is legal only in New Jersey and Nevada, Dempsey said, voters on Tuesday approved casino gambling in Detroit, adding Michigan to a growing list of states that allows casinos as well as lotteries.

``It’s a cancer growing in our society,″ Dempsey said. ``That is what concerns me. As we see a rising interest in gambling, we can expect increased gambling activities, both legal and illegal, and we can anticipate increasing sports gambling.″

Most Division I schools have FBI or other law enforcement officials speak to their football and basketball teams every year about gambling. NCAA rules make clear that athletes can lose their eligibility if they bet on any college or professional event.

``What we’ve attempted to do is go the educational route and try to help student-athletes understand the consequences of getting involved in gambling,″ Dempsey said. ``We will also continue to move toward stricter enforcement policies. Our best message may be just to urge people to use common sense.″

Because of the number of players involved, many college officials believe basketball is more vulnerable than football to point-shaving.

``The quickest way to destroy our credibility is for fans to doubt whether the games are spontaneous and on the up-and-up,″ said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

And it’s not just players they worry about.

``There are three groups who can influence the outcome _ players, coaches and game officials,″ Haney said. ``You hate to think anybody would do it, but it’s not unreasonable to imagine a coach who could (influence) games by making substitutions at just the right time.

``And an official could make several calls early in a game on a key player. All of a sudden, the key player is on the bench, and that’s all you need to practically guarantee that fewer points will be scored by his team.″

In an effort to acquaint the NCAA with all aspects of the gambling scene, Saum is also planning meetings with oddsmakers and legal sportsbook operators in Las Vegas.

``It’s frightening that the game is so vulnerable and so fragile,″ Haney said. ``It’s scary.″

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