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Milanovich Suspension Reduced to Four Games

By David Nakamura and Mark Asher
Washington Post Staff Writers
July 19, 1995

The NCAA yesterday reduced University of Maryland senior quarterback Scott Milanovich's suspension for betting on college sports to four games from eight. The NCAA Division I eligibility subcommittee modified the NCAA eligibility staff's decision after a teleconference that included Maryland officials and Milanovich.

Subcommittee chairman Milton R. Schroeder, a law professor at Arizona State, cited three mitigating factors in its decision. First, Milanovich had "fully and extensively" cooperated with the university investigation. Second, Maryland appealed the eight-game suspension before the committee decided that cases involving "knowing violation of fundamental NCAA principles" would be dealt with more seriously than in the past. Third, according to Maryland's investigation of the case, Milanovich had not knowingly participated in a "sophisticated, professional gambling operation."

The appeal of basketball player Matt Raydo's 20-game suspension was not heard yesterday. Maryland has not yet filed the documents necessary for that appeal because it needed to expedite Milanovich's.

Milanovich declined to comment last night. He met with football coach Mark Duffner after the announcement of the reduced suspension, but Duffner said they had no in-depth discussions about Milanovich's plans.

"I'm just trying to digest this," said Duffner. "We're trying to move forward as quick as we can."

Gary Milanovich said his son's future is still undecided. "I'm happy they changed it, but now {Scott} still has to make a decision," he said. "I just talked to him and he hadn't really made up his mind. He wants to sit and talk with some coaches and others. . . . I advised him that he now has an option, which he didn't have a day ago."

Milanovich last Friday received a waiver from the NCAA that would have allowed him to petition the NFL for entry into the supplemental draft without compromising his remaining college eligibility until the appeal was concluded. Now that the process has ended, Milanovich, among other options, can either keep his college eligibility and return to play for the final seven games this season, attempt to enter the NFL supplemental draft (one is held Friday and another in August) or seek a remedy through the courts should he want to fight the four-game suspension.

If he stays with the team, Milanovich would miss the Sept. 2 opener at Tulane in New Orleans, then home games vs. North Carolina, West Virginia and Duke. The quarterback would return for a game at Georgia Tech on Oct. 7. He would be allowed to practice at home, but would not be allowed to travel to the road game.

In a teleconference after the NCAA announcement, Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow said she thought several more meetings between Milanovich and Duffner would be necessary before the athlete decided to stay or exercise other options.

A source said that Duffner's willingness to give Milanovich an opportunity to start the fifth game and keep that position through his on-field performance likely will determine whether Milanovich remains in school. That decision likely will be made within the next 48 hours, the source said. A workout that Milanovich tentatively scheduled for NFL scouts in College Park this afternoon in case the eight-game suspension had been upheld will have to be postponed until the league declares him eligible for its supplemental draft, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

"Clubs will not be allowed to work him out unless he becomes approved for the draft," Aiello said. NFL policy, aimed at discouraging players with remaining eligibility from leaving school, forbids scouts from working out those players until they are eligible for an NFL college draft. Entrance into the supplemental draft is decided by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on a case-by-case basis.

The NCAA suspension for gambling "raises troubling questions for us," Aiello said. "But whether he'll be eligible for the draft will depend upon a review of the NCAA's findings concerning his gambling activities."

The NFL prohibits its players from betting on NFL games and from "associating with gamblers or with gambling activities in a manner tending to bring discredit to the NFL," according to a sign posted in every NFL locker room. "Any such conduct may result in severe penalties, up to and including a fine and/or suspension from the NFL for life."

Yesterday's appeal took place in a teleconference among the NCAA staff, Maryland and ACC officials, Milanovich, his father and his lawyer, Kevin Dunne. After the call, the five-member eligibility subcommittee deliberated for about 90 minutes.

Yow said the panel members asked several questions of Milanovich, including "how he ever became involved in betting at all and whether he thought this activity was detrimental." She declined to reveal Milanovich's answer to the first question, citing federal privacy law. But she said that he's learned a lesson and plans "to put it to good use."

William E. Kirwan, president of the university's College Park campus, said the four-game suspension "more fairly reflects the nature of the infraction." In the appeal, the school never wavered from seeking the suspension reduced to two games, as it recommended in its report about the case to the NCAA eligibility staff, but Kirwan said he wouldn't quibble with four. "The point there is we felt based on all past precedent, the sanctions were too severe, and we thought {the subcommittee} would reconsider them. There's no point at this stage arguing over one or two games. But I think our appeal has been vindicated."

Last season, Milanovich ranked 14th among NCAA Division I-A quarterbacks in passing efficiency and 24th in total offense with 212 yards per game. In 1993, when he had a better year, Milanovich was 25th in passing efficiency and fourth in total offense at 312.5 yards per game. In punting, Milanovich ranked 24th last season with a 41.8-yard average and sixth in 1993 at 43.8 yards.

Sophomore Brian Cummings, who likely will take over as starter for the first four games, has never thrown a pass in college. He's 5 feet 11, 191 pounds; Milanovich is 6-4, 220. Cummings ran 15 times for 72 yards and four touchdowns while directing Maryland's short-yardage attack.

Responding to the news of Milanovich's decreased suspension, Cummings said last night: "I thought the penalty was too harsh, but I didn't know how the NCAA would react {to the appeal}. It's good news. The team needs him. If he doesn't come back, I'm sure I could do a great job.

"The offense is still the same. We'll do all the same things. I'll rely on the system and the coaches. . . ." If Milanovich does return, "I'm just going to play within myself and try to get us a 4-0 record, then let Scott take over."

According to the NCAA, Maryland's internal investigation determined Milanovich pooled bets with other athletes, wagered a total of $200 on six college football and basketball games from 1992 to 1994, and personally placed bets with a bookmaker last fall. Raydo placed nine to 12 bets totaling between $130 and $160 on college sports last fall and was extended credit by a bookmaker. The other three football players, including star wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, placed bets totaling no more than $25 each on parlay cards during one semester.

© 1995 The Washington Post Company

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