WASHINGTON _ A bill in Congress that outlaws betting on amateur sports has garnered formal support from 62 major college coaches.
Among the coaches supporting it are Volunteer head football coach Phillip Fulmer and women's head basketball coach Pat Head Summitt.
” There's no gambling here on this team,” Fulmer said. “I don't think the bill affects this team at all. I just think the bill tries to make the sport better and college athletics cleaner.”
Fulmer, Summitt and coaches from universities across the nation sent a letter of thanks to Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., for co-sponsoring the Amateur Sports Integrity Act. Not on the list of signatures was Jerry Green, head coach for the men's basketball team at UT. Green could not be reached for comment, but UT athletics director Doug Dickey said he is certain that Green supports the bill.
The bill, also backed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the NCAA, would put a federal ban on gambling on high school, college and Olympic sports. Yesterday representatives from the University of Kentucky and the University of Connecticut testified at a hearing on the bill before the Senate Commerce Committee.
In written testimony, President of the University of Kentucky, Charles T. Wethington Jr., said gambling on college sports diminishes the hard work and integrity of the athletes. “In my 10 years as president,” he added, “I have yet to hear genuine fans of intercollegiate athletics suggest that they support collegiate contests because they can bet on the outcome of the games.”
Also testifying at the hearing were spokespersons from Sports Illustrated, the University of Minnesota, the American Gaming Association and other groups formed to track and study gambling in the United States.
Gambling on amateur sports has been illegal in every state except Nevada since 1992. More than $2.2 billion was placed on sports wagers in Las Vegas from 1998 through 1999, according to state statistics. Of that, 29 percent– $666 million– was bet on college sports. But if the bill is passed, the ban on amateur sports gambling would extend to Nevada.
Opponents say the bill can't be enforced and ignores the illegal gambling problem outside of Nevada.
Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president of the American Gaming Association, said he thinks the bill will only be a “cosmetic cure” that does not target illegal gambling. “I believe this is a smoke screen,” he said. “Doing away with legal betting in Nevada will not do away with illegal betting elsewhere.”
But Coach Fulmer said he thinks the bill would provide more accountability. “The bill may push gambling underground,” he said, “but at least it makes it illegal.”