SPidge Tales

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gambling: The NCAA's Best Friend

During my senior year at St. Michael’s, the student online magazine, the Echo, ran an NCAA basketball pool. It was free and open to all students. The student with the winning bracket would win a gift certificate or something like that. I don’t remember. The Echo posted the brackets of all the students who entered. After the first weekend of the tournament, my bracket was doing great. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to win, because someone in the SMC athletic department noticed, and forced the Echo to take down the brackets of all NCAA student-athletes.

I don’t blame the athletic department. I blame the NCAA for its asinine rules. No NCAA athlete is allowed to gamble on any other NCAA or professional sporting event. Somehow, by taking part in a free NCAA tourney bracket, or if had done a few $5 pools with my friends (which I of course would never do—wink wink), it would make me a cheater. Somehow, gambling on the Division I NCAA basketball tournament would have compromised my ability to play fairly at the Division 2 NCAA baseball level. The only people who should be banned from betting on the NCAA tournament are Division I basketball players, coaches, and officials. That is it.

The NCAA decries gambling as some sort of evil that is corrupting the integrity of its game. Yet, they know damn well that the popularity of college basketball is due to gambling. The reason the 64 (now 65) team tournament is so popular is because the games fit into neat single elimination brackets. People tune in to watch a first round 8-9 game not because they care about the two teams involved (save alumni and fans from the two schools), but because they want to see if their picks turn out correctly. The NCAA makes $1 billion per year from CBS. Why does CBS pay so much to televise the games? Because they get great ratings. Why do they get great ratings? Because everyone and his mother has money on the tournament, inducing interest. And it is that $1 billion the NCAA gets from CBS, plus millions from ESPN, and the millions from all the networks that televise college football (another sport whose popularity is partly due to gambling), that the NCAA uses to pay for championships and events in the dozens of money losing sports that other student-athletes play (such as myself, a former baseball player). Without gambling, there would be nothing more than local competitions between area colleges throughout the USA. The NCAA should stop its moral grandstanding and admit that gambling is what makes college sports both popular and financially viable.


Anonymous Kevin said...

But the popularity of gambling on college sports is precisely why the NCAA has such strict rules about NCAA athletes getting involves in gambling. In order to keep the desired levels of interest (and therefore ratings and money), the NCAA is willing to do everything possible to preserve the apparent integrity of the sports. If potential gamblers suspect that players are monkeying around with regard to point-shaving or even throwing games, they will be less interested in betting on the outcome. In reaction to such things happening, the NCAA came down hard on all student-athlete gambling in an effort to reassure the potential audience; whether or not the impact on student-athletes is greater than it needs to be is irrelevant.

9:22 AM  

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