Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wanna Bet?

In case you missed the news last night, the NCAA released a statement saying that because of the new state law in New Jersey that permits single game sports wagering, no NCAA championship competition can be held within the state.

The release mentions that five championship events will immediately be moved out of the state: the Division I Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, Diving Regionals (Piscataway, March 14-17), Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, Trenton Regional (Trenton, March 30-April 2), Division III Men’s Volleyball Championship (Hoboken, April 26-28) and the Division II and III Women’s Lacrosse Championships (Montclair, May 18-19).

What's unsaid is that any college in New Jersey that earns the right to host an NCAA tournament game no longer can.

This, of course, has a huge impact on Princeton, which usually hosts multiple events per year.

For instance, the Tiger field hockey team would almost surely host NCAA tournament games this year. The men's and women's lacrosse teams have often hosted first-round games - not to mention predetermined quarterfinals and Final Fours.

The men's soccer team hosted NCAA tournament games in consecutive years. The women's soccer team hosted - and won - four straight NCAA games in 2004 on its way to the Final Four.

The NCAA cross country regionals were here two years ago. The men's water polo Final Four was  here in 2009. While it hasn't been recently, the NCAA wrestling championships and fencing championships have been held in Jadwin Gym.

The NCAA women's rowing championships have been in New Jersey as well, though Princeton has not been the host. 

And now? Not anymore. Not as long as this law remains the law of the state of New Jersey.

Never mind that there probably isn't a lot of action moving on the Princeton field hockey team in the NCAA tournament.

Never mind that the same weekend that the field hockey tournament starts that there are any number of Philadelphia-area schools who will play football and men's basketball, all closer geographically to many of the places where sports gambling would be legal than Princeton University is.

It doesn't matter.

Nor does it matter, perhaps, that the law doesn't go into effect until the new year. The ban is immediate.

Of course, there is legal action from both sides of this debate, so it's possible that the courts will change the outcome. Or not.

Forget for a minute the morality of having the state - any state - in the business of gambling, which has ruined so many people's lives, destroyed so many families and left so many people broke, in prison or worse.

The idea of having sports betting in New Jersey stems obviously from the money-making potential. To have the ability to generate so much income is attractive to the state, especially when times are tough.

The decision that the state of New Jersey had to make, TigerBlog assumes, was based on the idea of generating that revenue and sacrificing revenue for things like NCAA basketball or hockey tournaments at the Prudential Center in Newark or NCAA Final Four lacrosse at MetLife Stadium.

It's unlikely that the fact that Princeton or any other New Jersey college (on any level) would no longer be able to host the first round in field hockey or soccer or lacrosse ever entered the discussion.

As an aside, this doesn't include squash or men's rowing, which are not NCAA sports. 

Still, it's schools like Princeton that are left to explain to all of New Jersey's college athletes who earn the right to play at home that they cannot do so because of a law that for all practical purposes has nothing to do with them. It wouldn't be much different to ban schools from hosting NCAA championship events because a state has casino gambling, or, for that matter, the internet.

Is anyone betting on field hockey? Lacrosse? College soccer? Of course not.

But the NCAA can't make a rule that says that those sports are exempt. TigerBlog gets it, he supposes.

This is one of those rare issues where TB understands the point of view of the state of New Jersey and the NCAA, even though they're complete opposites. New Jersey needs the money, so if it means that Princeton or Rutgers or the College of New Jersey can't host an event, so bet it. The state is okay with that.

And TB understands that there is no bigger threat to the integrity of sports - not performance enhancing drugs, not paying players, not anything - than having athletes who are competing not to win but to influence point spreads.

So he gets it all.

And yet, when he thinks about the people this will directly impact on this campus, he can't help but reach the obvious conclusion that it's ridiculously unfair to them.


Anonymous said...

The NCAA is fully justified in opposing sports betting, for all the obvious reasons. But there are many ways to oppose gambling and banning NCAA tournaments from New Jersey is, at best, a very indirect way of pressuring New Jersey lawmakers which causes a tremendous amount of collateral damage.

Of course, it's the widespread collateral damage which the NCAA loves about the idea. The media will seize upon the fact that among the many losers in this situation are innocent, hard-working athletes who have nothing to do with sports gambling. Stories written about field hockey players who can't host a home game they've earned will put a human face on the issue in a way that traditional lobbying can't. The NCAA is betting that this will create crushing political pressure on New Jersey to cancel its plans.

Shame on the NCAA. They might as well have put a gun to the head of a puppy and said, "Change the law or we'll shoot Rover." The NCAA is intentionally looking for and targeting innocent victims in this situation to create as much collateral damage as possible, to create as much of a media firestorm as possible, all in the name of its own PR objectives.

Ultimately, the NCAA couldn't care less about whether New Jersey permits sports betting. It already exists in Nevada. There will be no more corruption nationwide because a second state offers it.

Mark Emmert and the NCAA just want to appear in the public eye as the guys wearing the white hats, standing up for truth, justice and the American way. It's all part of their post-Sandusky public relations makeover campaign. Shame on the NCAA.

Anonymous said...

Can we sue the NCAA or seek an injunction prohibiting their action? Apparently, the New Jersey Law prohibits betting on individual contests within the state and the NCAA sticks with its one-size-fits-all policy. What does Robin Harris have to say about this? Is the Ivy League pushing back?

This action is more than extraordinarily high handed. The NCAA chooses to protect its financial monopoly by wrapping itself in an untouchable sanctimonious cloak. It's time to call their hand. Field hockey, soccer, rowing, cross country, lacrosse, fencing....C'mon. This is really lame and indefensible. Maybe the only way around this is for the top Field Hockey and Soccer coaches in the country to band together and boycott the NCAA tournament. What would the NCAA do, particularly if the Men's Basketball Coaches said we stand with our cohorts?

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