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Bad Bets

About this time each year Boston sports writers and commentators usually have one thing on their minds: the big football game between the Boston College Eagles and Notre Dame. The Eagles played Notre Dame last weekend (and lost, 48-21), but this time the game wasn't the story. Rather, it was the absence of 13 Boston College players.

The players were suspended from the team for placing bets on college and professional sporting events in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules. Two of the 13 allegedly bet against the Eagles and will be dismissed from the team. The others will sit out for the rest of the season.

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Boston College is familiar with sports betting and the fallout that results. During the 1978-79 season, the school found itself in the midst of a basketball point-shaving scandal; one player was sentenced to a 10-year prison sentence. Investigators say none of the football players involved in this latest incident was in a position to influence the outcome of a game. Several of the 13 were injured, and only two were starting players.

But that's not the point, and Boston College knows it. The point is the players knew the rules and chose to ignore them. The two who bet against their team made a particularly egregious error and have been punished for it. But the other 11 were wrong too, and Boston College acted properly in moving quickly to suspend them. For its part, the NCAA already has taken some much-needed steps to address the problem of gambling on college campuses, and this incident should prompt it to continue to pursue the issue.

Though coaches and school administrators "can't control everything," as Boston College athletic director Chet Gladchuk said, they can do more than many are doing. Mr. Gladchuk provided his own answers when he said, "What you have to do is give players direction ... and make them aware of what the rules are and what the ramifications will be if they are broken."

Seeing what happened at Boston College, players and students at other schools should recognize the ramifications of betting on a game and not be tempted. This can be a tough lesson to learn in a society that largely condones gambling. As one student at Boston College said, "Betting goes on." Surely he wasn't referring only to football players or to students on campus. The 13 Boston College players know they broke a rule, but a stronger effort is needed to explain why that rule makes sense.

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