SEC addresses betting, booze

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The face of college sports is changing.

It’s hardly recognizable from the time I began my fascination with college football and basketball. But change is inevitable. We have seen the advent of free agency in college sports. Money has poured in. Meanwhile, it seems the NCAA has turned a blind eye to all the changes going on.

Does anybody REALLY go on probation anymore?

Okay, maybe a few Florida football players after seeing a judge, but I’m talking about whole programs. Back in the 1970s and 80s, teams would spend three and four years on probation, and that would include forfeitures, scholarship reductions, bowl bans and no TV appearances.

Now, the NCAA depends on schools to self-regulate and unilaterally agree to reduce scholarships and bowl appearances. And now they vacate wins. That’s like letting Michael Jackson open a daycare center. The NCAA only punishes the have nots – the schools who don’t bring in money to the NCAA coffers.

Last week the SEC considered alcohol sales at league sporting events. It also addressed the notion of gambling across the conference. The Supreme Court has given the green light to individual states, perhaps as part of the Tenth Amendment, to set their own rules about gambling.

Does that mean that UT fans are going to see betting parlors along The Strip? Could we place a wager on the Commodores along West End? That a distinct possibility. When you introduce gambling into any situation, you also introduce the possibility for corruption.

Even without it, the SEC had an FBI agent address the football officials at their pre-season meeting about the perils of point shaving and game fixing. I’m sure each school’s compliance director makes the athletes aware that gambling is verboten, too. But that doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t there.

Consider that almost a year ago, a Gainesville professional gambler named Devante Zachery, a.k.a. “Tay Bang,” allegedly got into an altercation with one of the University of Florida football players. Zachery supposedly offered discounts at a rental car establishment. The high roller was escorted off campus.

For starters, what in the world was he doing on campus to begin with? Second, you have to believe the rental discounts were likely in exchange for a few favors on the field. The depth of corruption is limitless, sadly.

Regarding booze at the ballgames, I don’t see this as that big of a deal. Spirited drink has been served at ballparks and basketball venues for over a century. Sure, some people get over served and occasionally intoxicated, and amped up fans become a problem.

This just in: alcohol has been consumed at Neyland Stadium, among other SEC venues, for a long time. The lines at the liquor store on Cumberland Ave. aren’t for a post-game toddy at home while watching “Wheel of Fortune.”

The SEC just approved alcohol sales, and it may implement them as soon as this coming football season.

You may not like the changing face of college athletics, and that’s fine. I’m not sure I’m a fan of all of it, either.

For those of you who do approve, cheers!

Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on WRJB 95.9 FM, Camden, Tenn.

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