How serious is betting among college golfers?

LAS VEGAS – It came as no surprise that the subject of sports wagering among student-athletes was on the agenda during the NCAA Compliance Seminar at this week’s Golf Coaches Association of America Convention at the Riviera Hotel.

Afterall, a 2008 survey released recently by the NCAA showed male student-athlete golfers are more likely to engage in gambling than athletes in other college sports.

Rachel Newman Baker, director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities for the NCAA, gave an insightful presentation on the survey.

While the survey included categories such as casino and Internet gambling – even a category on investing in the stock market – the NCAA’s main concern is betting on sports. Regarding golf, that even includes $2 Nassau bets during practice rounds, which is considered a breach of the rules.

NCAA Bylaw 10.3 does not allow student-athletes or coaches to be involved in sports pools, Internet sports gambling, fantasy leagues, sports wagering involving “800” phone numbers or the exchange of information on teams and players.

It is not against the rules for a student-athlete to gamble in a casino or on the Internet, as long as it doesn’t involve sports betting. And, as far as those $2 Nassaus, it’s still OK, as long as it’s not done during the official 20 hours of a team’s practice and playing time.

Wagering among friends makes up the largest portion of college betting. Gambling with bookies and fellow students ranks second and third, respectively. The NFL is the sport that generates the most activity.

“How big a deal with the NCAA are those $2 Nassau bets on the golf course or those $1 pools during March Madness?” Newman Baker said. “We know they’re not going to be the demise of the game. It still does concern us, but the biggest concern is with Internet and high-stakes gambling.

“When does a $2 Nassau turn into a $50 bet on a football game, then turns into a $500 bet on the Internet? We certainly discourage and are against all forms of sports wagering, but our larger concern is with the more serious forms of gambling. It is definitely a problem and one we take very seriously,” she said.

There was plenty of discussion among the coaches, and many said the survey might be skewed.

As one coach put it, golf always has been a sport of honesty and integrity, with players calling penalties on themselves.

“Maybe,” said the coach, “the reason golf ranked so high is because golfers are probably more honest than the rest.”

Still, sports gambling is, and will be for some time, a major concern within the NCAA.

It’s the same with the GCAA.

“Our board takes this very seriously, and so should all you coaches,” said Mark Crabtree, GCAA president and head coach at Louisville. “We will continue to work closely with the NCAA on this and move forward with it. We are really going to try to make progress with this issue. The main thing is, we have to make all our coaches educate their players and let them know how serious this is and can be for them.”

Lance Ringler contributed

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