Record-setting quarterback Scott Milanovich may regret his decision to stay at Maryland for his final season of football.
Four Terps athletes and a fifth who refused to allow university officials to release his name, presumably Milanovich, will miss games for violating the NCAA prohibition against gambling on intercollegiate athletics.
The NCAA yesterday ruled that the unidentified football player would be forced to miss eight games, four times the penalty Maryland believed his violations warranted. Maryland immediately will appeal that ruling, and another by the NCAA that would extend walk-on basketball player Matt Raydo's suspension from a Maryland-recommended seven games to 20.
The name of Milanovich, who considered leaving Maryland at the end of last season and declaring his eligibility for the NFL draft, has been linked to the university's investigation into gambling by athletes since it became public in mid-April. He declined to comment yesterday afternoon, before he received news of the NCAA action, and he could not be reached for comment last night.
Maryland's investigation began March 6, after university officials became aware of a rumor that a high-profile football player had won money gambling on college sports. In late June, Maryland declared the five athletes ineligible and forwarded its findings, along with its recommended suspensions, to the NCAA Eligibility Appeals staff.
The NCAA agreed with Maryland's recommendation of one-game suspensions for three football players: wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, the Terps' record-holder for career yardage; reserve lineman Farad Hall; and Jaron Hairston, a former
walk-on linebacker whom coach Mark Duffner said last practiced with the team in spring 1994.
The NCAA, however, said that Maryland didn't go far enough in disciplining the two other athletes.
Maryland asked for a two-game suspension for the unidentified football player and a seven-game ban for Raydo, who received the basketball team's Academic and Mr. Hustle awards at the end of last season.
"We obviously disagree with the NCAA," athletic director Debbie Yow said. "We looked at 16 or 17 cases of similar misconduct. We compared those with ours, and based on the facts, we felt that suspensions of two games for the football player and seven games for Raydo were warranted. We weren't even close. I couldn't even begin to guess how the last appeal will go."
The final appeal will be heard by the five-person NCAA Eligibility Committee, in a conference call during which Maryland officials and the two athletes will plead their case.
In a case ruled on by the NCAA two years ago, a baseball player who bet $417 was suspended from 12 of his team's games.
An official statement released by Maryland said that the investigation found no evidence that its athletes bet on Terps games or took measures to affect the outcome or point spread of Terps games.
Milanovich, a senior from Butler, Pa., has been a controversial figure since winning the Maryland starting job as a sophomore.
He was suspended for two weeks of spring practice in 1994 for an undisclosed violation of university policy. He lost his starting position to Kevin Foley for two games last season, fell behind academically and considered leaving school early for an attempt at a professional career.
He passed 18 credits in the spring and recently completed a six-credit summer internship with the Baltimore City Police Department, a combination that under NCAA rules would leave him academically eligible to play next season.
Throughout his troubles, Milanovich has been an adept leader of Maryland's run-and-shoot offense. With just 20 career starts, he has thrown for a school-record 525 completions, 47 touchdowns and a completion percentage of .661. He set two NCAA records, completing 23 straight passes over two games and 33 of 38 against N.C. State.
Foley transferred to Boston University, and if Milanovich is unable to play as a result of gambling violations, the Terps' quarterback would be Brian Cummings, a redshirt sophomore who ran the short-yardage offense last year but has yet to attempt a pass in college. One of the best athletes at Maryland, Cummings pitched for the baseball team last spring.
Next in line at quarterback would be two freshmen, Ken Mastrole and Todd Evans. Cornerback Orlando Strozier, who was tested in the short-yardage offense in the spring, also is available.
With 127 catches and 1,995 yards in his three-year career, Lewis is the only one of the four named athletes to have an impact on Maryland athletics. He will miss the Sept. 2 opener at Tulane.
"I take responsibility for my actions," Lewis said. "This coming season is important to me. No matter what happens now, the team and I are determined to have a good season."
Hall also expressed regrets. "It's unfortunate that this happened, but it did and I accept responsibility," he said.
The gambling suspensions and investigation are the latest troubles to hit Maryland football, which has had one winning season and bowl team since 1985. The Terps are 9-24 in three seasons under Duffner, and Milanovich's absence would severely hinder the program's plans for its first winning season and bowl since 1990.
"I'm disappointed," Duffner said, "but I feel everyone is working hard to make progress."