Athens, GA (Jan 13, 2009) - Back on December 12, 2008, we reported that Bobby Knight and Billy Packer are teaming up in a joint venture for this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The details were few, but are now starting to emerge as clearly as the neon signs of the Strip in Las Vegas. This is appropriate because this venture is going to be based/broadcast out of Steve Wynn's Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas.
As reported on Barry Horn's blog, Packer said that they will not be mentioning gambling on the show. Cough, couph, wince. The reality is that they will not have to because their set will be in the middle of it!
Here are two of the supposed paragons of virtue in college basketball selling out to Las Vegas Gambling. Complicit in this affair is Fox SportsNet, which will be broadcasting the shows.
When we reported the initual news of this arrangement we asked two simple questions:
Would this be considered competing with CBS Sports? And if so, did Packer have a non-compete agreement as part of his retirement?
Does Bobby Knight have a non-compete clause in his contract with ESPN?
So let's add this question:
What is the position of the NCAA on this venture? (courtesy of Horn)
Jim Nantz of CBS Sports has said publicly that he does not understand why people are so critical of Billy Packer. If this one glaring example does not help him understand, noting will. One of the raps on Packer over the years that is consistent about Packer is that he is all about making a buck. In fact, in Nantz's own book, he talks about Packer crawling around on a basketball court picking up shards from a broken backboard to sell for a profit.
It is a sad day for college basketball for Packer and Knight to be involved in this venture. As much as I have been an apologist for Knight, this turn is truly stunning and should not be easily excused.
It is ironic that only a couple of days ago I was explaining the 1951 point shaving scandal to my daughter, as she is working on a paper on the history and evolution of basketball. As this venture has not kicked off yet, I wonder what chapter this will add to the story of basketball in years to come. Undoubtedly, it will be a mere blip on the radar screen as more people become desensitized to the addicting nature of gambling and the problems it causes. Yes, I play the brackets as much as anybody else, but I know not to bet the house on them.