Does seven games make a senior football season?
That's the matter Maryland quarterback Scott Milanovich was left to ponder last night, after the NCAA eligibility committee halved an eight-game gambling suspension the NCAA staff handed him last week to four.
After receiving news of the reduction, Milanovich talked with coach Mark Duffner, and they will meet today to discuss his options further. Milanovich could not be reached for comment, but his father said that he will decide today about his future.
Milanovich can join the Terps for the fifth game of the season and try to win his job back from redshirt sophomore Brian Cummings, or he can apply for the NFL's supplemental draft, which is tentatively scheduled for Friday.
A source close to Milanovich said that he is leaning toward staying at Maryland, but is seeking assurance from Duffner that he would be the starter when he returned.
Earlier yesterday, Milanovich pushed back a workout for interested pro teams from today to tomorrow. If he applied for the supplemental draft, he would relinquish his final season of eligibility.
"It's my understanding that in order to have a tryout, he has to renounce his eligibility," Gary Milanovich said. "I think he has to make a decision tomorrow [today]."
If Milanovich choses to return to Maryland, his eligibility would be TC reinstated in time for a Sept. 28 game at Georgia Tech.
That Thursday night game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Milanovich's father said the reduction of the suspension from eight to four games didn't make his son's decision a clear-cut one.
"It's right on the [border] line, that's for sure," Gary Milanovich said.
Besides violating the NCAA rule against gambling on intercollegiate athletics by betting a total of $200 on six occasions in 1992, '93 and '94, Milanovich may have been caught in the middle of some mixed signals between NCAA headquarters and the eligibility committee.
Maryland forwarded the results of a three-month gambling investigation and a recommendation of a two-game suspension for Milanovich to the NCAA's eligibility appeals staff in mid-June, about the time the eligibility committee instructed the appeals staff to come down harder on athletes who commit severe rules infractions.
David Berst, the NCAA's assistant executive director for enforcement and eligibility, said his staff received that instruction "before consideration" of the Maryland case, but Milton R. Schroeder, the chairman of the eligibility committee, indicated otherwise.
"The institution had filed its appeal for restoration prior to the committee's policy decision that cases involving knowing violation of fundamental NCAA principles should be carefully evaluated with a view to considering if more stringent conditions to restoration of eligibility would be appropriate," Schroeder said in a statement.
Schroeder's statement also contradicted earlier statements by Carrie Doyle, the NCAA director of eligibility. In justifying the extension of Milanovich's suspension from two to eight games, Doyle said that he had dealt directly with an off-campus bookmaker and thus ran the danger of falling under the influence of organized crime.
Schroeder's statement said: "The facts presented to the committee by the institution did not show there had been any knowing participation by the student-athlete in a sophisticated, professional gambling operation."
Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said: "I consider this to be a moral victory.
"We never moved off our position that two games, given the character of the misconduct, was sufficient and appropriate," Yow said. "At the same time, we cannot find fault with the NCAA. We understand the need across the country to tighten up and be tough on gambling."
Though not identifying Milanovich, Yow said: "The student-athlete believes this act is detrimental, and indicated to them [the eligibility committee] he has learned a lesson and will put it to good use. . . . We have a public service program, and it would certainly be beneficial if the student-athlete participated."
Yow said that Schroeder, a professor of law at Arizona State, conducted a two-hour teleconference that included members of the eligibility committee and eligibility staff, Milanovich, his attorney, Duffner, Maryland attorneys and counsel the university hired for the investigation, and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Gene Corrigan, who is the president of the NCAA.
Yow said that the committee spent "two more hours discussing the issue."
Basketball player Matt Raydo, meanwhile, is still awaiting a date for the appeal of his 20-game suspension. Yow said that Maryland has yet to send appeal material on Raydo's case to the NCAA. Raydo originally was suspended for seven games by Maryland.
"It wasn't as bad as they [NCAA officials] thought it was," Raydo said from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "They didn't get the whole story. It looks a lot different on paper than what happened. . . . That's the reason I feel confident."