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Stakes high for sports gambling.

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard

Enter an office pool related to a sporting event?

`I know I can't do that,' UO basketball coach Ernie Kent said.

Play in a fantasy baseball league? Try to pick winners in the Sports Action version sponsored by the Oregon Lottery Commission?

`Absolutely not,' said Hal Cowan, Oregon State assistant athletics director. `Our (compliance) guy has made it plain and in no uncertain terms, there can be no gambling in any way, shape or form.'

While the current imbroglio at the University of Washington surrounding football coach Rick Neuheisel has focused public attention on NCAA rules against gambling, officials and coaches at Oregon and OSU say they have been given a clear and persistent message in recent years that employees of college athletics departments can't participate in any type of wagering on sporting events.

`It's been broken down to the nth degree,' Kent said.

Cowan said OSU's compliance office sends out a memorandum `three times a year' reminding all employees that they are forbidden from participating in any form of sports betting, no matter how unorganized and regardless of the monetary amounts at risk.

`Our guys have hammered it hard every year,' Cowan said.

While UO employees couldn't cite any specific examples of warnings, they seemed clear on the rule.

`From what we've been told here for many years, and what we've told our (assistant) coaches and athletes, you can't gamble on any sports,' UO football coach Mike Bellotti said.

The specific NCAA rule on gambling is 10.3, and it reads fairly straightforward that `staff members ... and student-athletes shall not knowingly' make wagers or aid others in doing so, and risk a one-year suspension if caught in a violation.

Paragraph (e) of that rule specifically warns athletes and employees not to `participate in any gambling activity that involves intercollegiate athletics or professional athletics, through a bookmaker, a parlay card or any other method employed by organized gambling.'

Though that doesn't seem to specifically cover such things as office pools where participants fill out NCAA basketball tournament brackets, Dave Williford, Oregon's assistant athletics director for media services, said UO staff members `certainly understand that office pools were no longer acceptable.'

Asked if he felt there was any `gray' area in the rules, Williford replied in the negative. `There was no doubt ... even before this,' he added, in reference to the current situation at Washington.

The current NCAA rule on gambling was revised in 1998, which followed revisions in each of the previous two years as the NCAA toughened its stance on gambling.

Bellotti, for instance, said he had entered NCAA basketball pools while in previous jobs at other colleges, but didn't think he had participated in one since being hired by the Ducks as their offensive coordinator in 1989.

`Maybe that first year,' Bellotti said, adding that `somewhere' before he was promoted to head coach at Oregon in 1995, it was made clear to UO employees that NCAA basketball pools were a violation.

Kent said he last entered an NCAA basketball pool while he was coaching a club team in Saudi Arabia, and thus not subject to NCAA rules. Even then, he said, his participation was mostly of a social nature.

Hired at Oregon in 1985, Williford said he could remember being offered entry in pools in his first years with the Ducks but `it's been a long time since that's been done. There's been a general understanding that those are no longer acceptable.'

When Sports Action began with wagering on NFL games, and with some of the proceeds going to help support intercollegiate athletics in the state, there was tacit encouragement in the departments to play.

`A lot of us played that when it first came out,' Cowan said, part of the reasoning being that it wasn't betting on college games, and it was an aid to athletics departments badly in need of funds.

Bellotti, in his ninth year as Oregon's head coach, said he entered the Sports Action game `a couple times when it first came out,' but remembered coaches being told `10 or 12 years ago' that the NCAA considered even a state-sponsored form of gambling a violation.

How about that for an irony: Nobody in the athletics departments at Oregon or OSU can play it, but Sports Action still tosses money in their direction, about $700,000 for the Ducks in the 2002 fiscal year.
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Title Annotation:Officials and coaches at Oregon and Oregon State say they've been consistently warned about betting on sports; Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 11, 2003
Words:734
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