Tonight’s championship (and last) game of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament concludes one of the year’s biggest sports wagering periods. According to a Business Insider article, “gambling is only legal in about half the country, but the business reels in between $80 million and $90 million in bets during March Madness. However, the FBI estimates that revenue from illegal wagers totals between $6 billion and $12 billion”. Most importantly, student-athletes, athletics employees and other parties associated with athletics programs at NCAA member institutions are prohibited from engaging in sports wagering activities involving the tournament.
NCAA Major Infractions Cases Involving Sports Wagering
Today’s post will review the public infractions report (Report No. 226) from the University of Washington enforcement case, which was issued on October 20, 2004, by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions. The report was prepared in response to the Committee on Infractions’ June 11, 2004, hearing involving Washington and a former head football coach. The hearing addressed allegations of NCAA rules-violations in the institution’s athletics programs, primarily the football program. The enforcement case “centered on allegations of NCAA violations involving gambling legislation, recruiting and institutional control”. Regarding the illicit gambling activities, the Committee on Infractions determined violations of NCAA Bylaws 10.3-(b), 10.3-(d) and 10.3-(e) occurred. Specifically, the Committee on Infractions found:
“Between the 1999-00 and 2002-03 academic years, several members of the institution’s intercollegiate athletics coaching staff and athletics department staff members participated in betting pools involving the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. On each occasion, the coaching staff members and athletics department staff members who participated in these activities each placed a wager of $3 to $5 on the bracket outcome of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. Further, the former head coach participated in auctions involving the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship in which he won a total of $11,219. Specifically:
1. In March 2000, 2001 and 2002, NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship pools were conducted within the institution’s football office, and the participants included several assistant football coaches, other football office staff members plus family members and friends of the coaching staff members. The cost of participation was $3-$5 on each occasion.
2. In March 2003, an athletics equipment manager participated in two NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship pools. The cost of his participation in each was approximately $5.
3. In March 2003, five athletic trainers participated in an NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship pool conducted outside the institution. The cost of his participation in each was approximately $5 each.
4. On one occasion between the 1999-00 and 2002-03 academic years, the former compliance director participated in an NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship pool outside the institution. The cost of her participation was approximately $5.
5. In both March of 2002 and March of 2003, the former head football coach participated in “auctions” involving the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. In 2002, in Bellevue, Washington, the former head coach participated in a group that bid on several of the men’s basketball teams included in the tournament field. He contributed $3,610 to the auction, and based on the performance of the teams his group selected the former head coach’s share of his group’s winnings was $8,409, including his original contribution. In 2003, in Seattle, Washington, the former head coach again participated in a group that bid on several of the men’s basketball teams included in the tournament field. He contributed $2,790 to the auction, and based on the performance of the teams his group selected the former head coach’s share of this group’s winnings was $9,210, including his original contribution. His net winnings totaled $11,219.”
The Committee on Infractions issued the following sanctions in this case: public reprimand and censure; extension of the probationary period until February 9, 2007; the number of expense paid visits to the campus in the sport of football shall be limited to 48 for both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years; the university shall be prohibited from using water craft as transportation or entertainment for recruits during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years (the institution had proposed this penalty for only the 2004-05 year); annual compliance reporting.
The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends NCAA member institutions: (a) conduct rules-education sessions concerning NCAA sports wagering legislation during March; (b) consult with the NCAA agents, gambling and amateurism staff for rules-compliance strategies; and (c) review the NCAA website (www.ncaa.org) for additional compliance resources relating to sports wagering.