Survey: Players took money to play poorly

Updated: May 14, 2004, 2:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHICAGO -- An NCAA gambling study showed 35 percent of male athletes and 10 percent of female athletes have bet on college sports in the last year, and that gambling money has influenced the outcome of games.

Gambling on college or pro sports is a violation of NCAA rules that jeopardizes athletes' eligibility. The study did not specify the type of betting, whether it be illegal gambling, betting on an NCAA basketball tournament pool, betting between friends, or making legal wagers in Nevada, for example.

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  • The study, called the National Study on Collegiate Sports Wagering and Associated Health Risks, surveyed 21,000 athletes about their gambling practices. The results were released Wednesday in Chicago.

    They showed that Division III athletes are the most likely to gamble, while Division I athletes were the least likely to wager on college sports.

    "The scope of sports wagering among intercollegiate student-athletes is startling and disturbing," NCAA president Myles Brand said in a statement. "Sports wagering is a double threat because it harms the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of college sports."

    The study also showed 1.1 percent of football players reported taking money for playing poorly in games. While 2.3 percent of football players admitted they were asked to influence the outcome of games because of gambling debts, 1.4 percent acknowledged altering their performance to change the outcome.

    Golfers, wrestlers, lacrosse and football players were the most likely male athletes to wager on college sports. Female athletes who gamble were more likely to compete in golf, lacrosse, basketball and field hockey.

    In response to the findings, Brand chose Notre Dame president Rev. Edward A. Malloy to head a national task force that will analyze the results and recommend strategies to change gambling habits among athletes. American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff will be the task force's vice chair.

    According to a story in Thursday's Indianapolis Star, NCAA officials said they conducted the study out of concern for athletes' welfare and the integrity of college sports.

    "If the game is affected negatively by gambling, if the sport loses integrity, then everything becomes professional wrestling," Malloy told The Star.

    Malloy, however, did not denounce all gambling.

    "I personally, as a religious figure, don't think gambling is abhorrent in and of itself," he was quoted as saying in The Star. "The question [for the task force] is not whether gambling is acceptable. That's a policy question for the nation, usually at the state level. But it's rather the degree or harm some people can experience."

    Mike Tranghese, commissioner of the Big East, told the Star that he was not expecting the report's release now and had not read it.

    Asked if he thinks approximately 1 percent of Big East football players have taken money to play poorly, he said, "I'd like to think not. Who knows? . . . Nothing will surprise me, but I don't know where Myles got the information. I haven't read it."

    Although most college gambling scandals have involved point shaving in basketball, the survey numbers for basketball were lower than those of football. Two Division I basketball players of 388 surveyed (0.5 percent) said they took money to play poorly in a game.

    The Star noted that even that number disturbed Indiana coach Mike Davis, who said, "I think numbers like that are scary. I think any percentage is scary."

    Recommendations that could come from Malloy's group include expanding education efforts, changing NCAA rules and seeking new state and federal legislation.

    The task force also will examine the study's findings on whether alcohol or drug use, which the surveyed athletes also were questioned about, may be indicators of gambling. Those results are still being analyzed.

    NCAA officials said future studies may also be conducted to determine trends and determine the effectiveness of the governing body's policies and programs.

    "The NCAA is taking a leadership role at the national level to address this problem among student-athletes before it reaches crisis proportions," Brand said.

    Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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