Cleaning Up College Sports

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is over, with Duke crowned champion. But organizers and fans of this yearly sports fest have two items of unfinished, and unpleasant, business.

First, it's time to crack down on destructive outbursts by vanquished, or triumphal, fans following games. Drunken revelers at the University of Maryland "celebrated" their team's loss in the Final Four by igniting several bonfires, terrorizing neighbors, raiding a nearby apartment for more fuel, scaring off firemen, and causing in excess of a half-million dollars in damage to cable-television lines.

Three nights later, the mess shifted to Tucson, where a couple thousand University of Arizona partisans, riotous in defeat, burned cars, mobbed intersections, and were finally dispersed by riot police.

The NCAA's top schools should actively discourage such hooligan antics. Vandalism and public disorder have nothing to do with sports.

In addition, the growing phenomenon of betting on events like the NCAA tournament needs to be stemmed. This form of gambling is liberally spread around, but a good deal of it occurs on campuses. It directly endangers the integrity of college sports, as incidents of thrown games and corrupted players attest.

The NCAA has focused its efforts on federal legislation to shut down such betting in the only place where it's legal, Nevada. But so far, a powerful and deep-pocketed gambling lobby has blocked the bill in Congress.

Still, it's a battle worth continuing. If college sports are to retain even a semblance of the ideals they're supposed to embody - like amateurism and fair play - the corrosive influence of gambling has to go.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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