McCain has Nevada in his sights again

Get ready for a repeat of "March Madness."

We're not talking about the annual college basketball tournament, but about a probable grandstand play about the same time by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to renew his push to outlaw betting in Nevada on college athletics.

Last year, McCain timed his anti-betting campaign with the college tournament as a publicity ploy. In truth, however, the timing should be seen as a prime example of the hypocrisy of McCain's proposal.

McCain and the National Collegiate Athletic Association want to ban betting on college sports -- already legal only in Nevada -- to protect the integrity of amateur athletics.

Never mind that the NCAA and law enforcement authorites -- from federal to state to local -- can't seem to get a handle on the illegal betting that goes on in 49 other states.

Never mind that outlawing legal bets in Nevada would open wide a door for even more illegal betting.

Never mind that Nevada's legal sports books are often the best source for finding out when a game may be rigged, because the professionals who operate them can spot a suspicious swing in the wagers.

Say McCain really does want to protect the integrity of amateur athletics. He could start with the NCAA basketball tournament by nixing its contract with CBS to broadcast the games.

That contract, which extends through 2013, pays an obscene amount -- $6.2 billion -- to the NCAA. Why in the world do amateur athletes need $6.2 billion?

Oh, excuse us. The money is not for the athletes, it's for the industry that has grown up around college athletics.

For example, there are now at least 18 college coaches pulling down more than $1 million a year in salary. A couple are making $2 million a year.

And that's only one scene in the charade that allows college sports to call themselves amateur.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has called McCain's proposed ban on Nevada amateur sports betting "just a fig leaf to cover the problems the NCAA has with illegal gambling on college campuses." In fact, when it comes to the integrity of amateur athletics on far too many college campuses, the emperor is pretty much bare.

Would it be madness to ask Sen. McCain to seek some meaningful reform in the mega-billion industry of college sports? Probably so. In politics, as in college athletics, it's usually much easier to set up some opponent to please the Homecoming crowd and then knock the stuffing out if it.


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