While millions of Americans enjoy playing fantasy sports with groups of friends or co-workers, the NCAA prohibits such activities for student-athletes, athletics employees, and those individuals to whom athletics employees report (i.e. college presidents, registrars, financial aid advisors, and faculty athletics representatives). The prohibition of fantasy sports is nothing new for these individuals; it is part of a wide-reaching ban on gambling activities. Penalties for violations of this policy can be harsh. Even though it may be a little frivolous to prohibit participation in fantasy sports leagues for small sums of money, the ultimate goals are much more important: maintain the integrity of on-field competition and keep student-athletes away from organized crime.
The NCAA policy on gambling is fairly simple: no student-athletes, athletics personnel, or university employees that oversee athletics may engage in any sports wagering activities. These individuals may not bet on amateur athletics contests, collegiate athletics contests, or professional athletics contests for NCAA-sponsored sports. Therefore, individuals may not bet on sports like football, basketball, soccer, baseball, or any Olympic sports; it is permissible to bet on sports such as horse racing, dog racing, NASCAR, and anything else that is not sponsored by the NCAA. Additionally, student-athletes and athletics personnel may play poker, slot machines, and other typical casino games in accordance with all federal and state laws.
The main rationale behind the NCAA’s policy on gambling is to protect the integrity of NCAA sports as well as the well-being of its constituents. University officials proposed this NCAA legislation because they worried that local bookkeepers and other members of the organized crime world could influence student-athletes to “shave points” – affect the final outcome of a game by putting forth less effort in order to allow gamblers to win big. Several student-athletes and coaches have been caught up in point-shaving scandals over the years. Just last year, federal law enforcement officials indicted some former members of the University of San Diego men’s basketball team on the suspicion of shaving points. The New York Times released an article about the University of San Diego scandal and gambling by NCAA student-athletes in general. Such activity is not commonplace, but it still is a nationwide concern. Gambling can develop into a crippling addiction – just take a look at former Ohio State and NFL quarterback, Art Schlichter, who wasted his talent when he became a degenerate gambler. While most gambling problems might not become as serious as Schlichter’s, the NCAA policy is aimed at preventing sports wagering activities before the debts escalate.
If violations of NCAA Bylaw 10.3 – sports wagering activities – occur, the price that violators pay is steep. If a student-athlete violates this legislation, he or she loses one full year (365 days) of eligibility from the time the violation is discovered; a second violation by the same student-athlete results in the permanent loss of collegiate eligibility. Athletics personnel are put on NCAA probation if they violate the same legislation; a second violation results in a “show-cause” penalty. Such a penalty normally results in an individual’s dismissal from a university job. These are very strict penalties, especially considering the activities that qualify as violations of Bylaw 10.3. If an individual enters a fantasy NFL league for a $20 entry fee, for example, that is a violation. Likewise, a $5 entry fee for an office “March Madness” pool qualifies as a violation.
Fantasy sports leagues, bracket challenges for “March Madness” in NCAA men’s basketball, and numerous other sports wagering activities are fairly harmless. Millions of people enjoy these activities. However, if you plan on working in collegiate athletics, you must give these up for the greater goal of keeping big-time gambling and organized crime out of collegiate athletics and as far away from student-athletes as possible. In the end, it is simply not worth it for individuals who are involved with collegiate athletics to gamble on sports – if you gamble on sports, you’re gambling your job security or collegiate eligibility.