While office managers nationwide find themselves forced into the role of bookies and even the baristas at Starbucks become basketball experts when March Madness rolls around, you won’t see Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green or any other NCAA athlete participating in the betting pools that have become a national pastime. Even athletes who play sports other than basketball run the risk of losing their eligibility for the rest of the year if they fill out a bracket.
According to an NCAA press release, sports wagering means “putting something at risk—such as an entrance fee—with the opportunity to win something in return.”
The NCAA’s policy covers activities from online sports books to basketball pools.
While students betting on their own performance presents an obvious conflict of interest, athletes face an equally severe penalty for betting on sports whose outcomes they cannot directly effect.
NCAA spokesperson Stacy Osburn said that the NCAA rules are written by member universities that want to maintain the character of college sports.
She noted that most forms of sports wagering, including NCAA pools, are illegal in most states, and that the NCAA basketball tournament is about celebrating athletic performance, not gambling.
“There doesn’t need to be money involved for the tournament to be fun,” she said.
The press release mentions that student athletes indebted to bookies sometimes alter their performance in their own games as payment.
According to the 2003 National Study on Collegiate Sports Wagering and Associated Health Risks, 17 of 388 college basketball players surveyed admitted to altering their behavior, knowing of another player who had, or being approached to do so.
Though the bylaws do not specifically prohibit pools where a prize is offered without charging an entry fee, like the $25,000 basketball bracket on Facebook, these pools are heavily discouraged. Many NCAA member universities, including Georgetown, do not allow athletes to participate in such pools.