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Tony Batt

Betting Ban Not Discussed at College Sports Meeting

3 February 2004

WASHINGTON -- Once a top priority of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, legislation to prohibit Nevada sports books from taking bets on amateur athletic events did not figure prominently Monday in a discussion of college sports reform.

NCAA officials and coaches seemed more interested in preventing freshmen from playing on varsity teams and improving graduation rates than on clamping down on sports betting during a meeting of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

NCAA President Myles Brand insisted that a bill by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to impose the betting ban on Nevada sports books remains a priority.

"The bill at this point hasn't gotten to the point where we can really say it's imminent, and until then, I think we've got to work on other aspects," Brand said.

The McCain bill and similar legislation by Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., did not come up during Brand's 45-minute discussion with members of the Knight Foundation.

The foundation's commission on intercollegiate athletics was formed in 1989 to recommend reforms in response to college sports scandals.

Dean Smith, the former basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, said he still supports the proposed betting ban for Nevada sports books.

"They can do the pros," Smith said. "We've had a gambling problem every 10 years since '48."

Terry Holland, former basketball coach at the University of Virginia, said gambling is an epidemic on college campuses and another scandal could create chaos.

"(College) kids do gamble and our athletes associate with them so (the athletes) are very vulnerable," Holland said.

But neither Smith nor Holland mentioned sports betting during their presentations to the Knight Foundation.

Smith urged a rule change that would prevent freshmen from playing on varsity teams. Holland said colleges should spend more money on academics and less on athletics.