NCAA throws book at Milanovich


A Division I ice hockey player who lost $1,000 betting on the NCAA basketball tournament was held out of 20 percent of his team's regular-season games in 1991-92.

A Division II men's basketball player who wagered $1,835 on college sports over a 28-week period was forced to miss 33 percent of his team's games last season.

Given those precedents, why did the NCAA impose an eight-game suspension on Maryland quarterback Scott Milanovich -- keeping him out of nearly 75 percent of the Terps' 1995 schedule -- when six bets he placed on intercollegiate athletics totaled $200?

The difference was clear to the NCAA, but not to Maryland.

The precedents dealt with athletes who bet with student-run operations, but Maryland's investigation into gambling found that Milanovich had placed bets for himself and others over a three-year period with an off-campus bookie, once directly. According to the NCAA, that heightened the possibility that he -- and by extension the Terps football team -- could be compromised by organized crime.

"Clearly, when you become directly involved with a bookie, the potential for the student-athlete and program to be compromised is significant," said Carrie Doyle, the NCAA's director of eligibility. "A bookie who might have ties to organized crime could jeopardize a student-athlete. A student-run gambling operation is certainly not as serious, at least in the staff's view."

On Monday, the NCAA's eligibility appeals staff informed Maryland that it was extending the university's two-game suspension of Milanovich to eight games and the university's seven-game suspension of basketball walk-on Matt Raydo to 20 games for similar, direct involvement with a bookie.

The suspensions were the most severe for Division I athletes by the eligibility appeals staff, which does not keep track of irrevocable suspensions that are not appealed.

Maryland is preparing an appeal to the NCAA's five-person eligibility committee, which will hear it within two weeks. According to Doyle, the eligibility committee has lessened penalties in 25 percent of the appeals.

Milanovich, a two-year starter who holds several Maryland passing records, did not return repeated phone calls yesterday. He is faced with the loss of much of his senior season, but the NCAA's ruling may hasten his move to the pro ranks. An unsuccessful appeal probably would leave Milanovich leaning toward declaring for the NFL's supplemental draft later this month.

"If they [the eligibility committee] say that the suspension is going to stay at eight games, Scott will look at other choices," Gary Milanovich, his father, said from his Butler, Pa., home last night. "The supplemental draft is one of them. We're doing a lot of thinking right now, trying to figure out the best way to go."

Terps coach Mark Duffner, who needs every edge he can get as he enters the fourth year of a five-year contract, said: "I talked to Scott, and I think he's doing fine."

While Milanovich considered his future, Terps officials wondered whether the NCAA were making an example of the Maryland athletes and whether the severe penalties would inhibit student-athletes from telling the truth in future investigations.

"We are disillusioned and disappointed," athletic director Debbie Yow said. "We feel the severity of the sanctions was unwarranted and counterproductive to the larger goal of keeping the [information] pipeline open.

"It certainly warranted sanctions, but I think it sets up the scenario in which people will say: 'There's no way I'm going to tell the truth. Look what happened to the two guys at Maryland.' That's a valid concern."

An NCAA news release said that, had Milanovich and Raydo not cooperated with a Maryland investigation that began March 6, the two would have been suspended for an entire year. The release did not identify the players, but Milanovich is known to be "student-athlete No. 1." During the falls of 1992, 1993 and 1994, the NCAA said, student-athlete No. 1 placed three bets, two bets and one bet, respectively, through bookies, with a total amount of $200.

The NCAA said that "on each occasion, the young man pooled his bets with other student-athletes, and, during the fall of 1994, the young man personally placed his bets with a bookie."

Raydo placed nine to 12 bets on college football and basketball games totaling $130 to $160. Seven to nine of the bets were placed with a bookie "either personally or through a student manager," and "the young man was extended credit with a bookie," the NCAA said.

"Student-athlete No. 1 dealt directly with a bookie," Doyle said. "Student-athlete No. 2 was extended a line of credit with a bookie. The clear thing that distinguished these student-athletes from every other appeal that we have heard is that they placed bets directly with a bookie."

Doyle was asked whether a student-run gambling operation weren't as capable of extortion as an off-campus operation. "I feel the difference between the two is pretty clear," Doyle said. "It seems we can make a distinction."

Maryland was surprised by Monday's action, in part because the NCAA eligibility appeals staff accepted the one-game suspensions that Maryland had placed on three other football players, wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, reserve lineman Farad Hall and Jaron Hairston, a former walk-on who hasn't practiced since last spring but was still included in the report because he had eligibility remaining.

They bet between $10 and $25 on college football and basketball parlay cards last fall.

Yow said that the investigation began March 6, after Maryland officials learned that Milanovich had discussed gambling with a West Coast reporter working on a series on the topic.

"We did the right thing," Yow said. "People have told us that we were foolish to be forthright, but we're going to do the right thing and expect a balanced, reasoned response [from the NCAA]. We're trying to teach our student-athletes life lessons, and slam-dunking them doesn't seem like much of a life lesson."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad