Next year's NCAA East Regional will not be in New Jersey, because of the state's pursuit of sports gambling business. It instead will be in New York City, where nobody ever bets on the NCAA Tournament.
For some time, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been trying to overturn federal law that precludes his state from legalizing sports gambling at existing casinos and horse tracks. The governor, looking for additional streams of revenue for his cash-strapped state, thinks that banning sports gambling in some states but not others—including Nevada and New Jersey's neighbor to the south, Delaware—is an unfair and arbitrary abuse of federal rules and regulations.
Did I say unfair and arbitrary abuse of rules and regulations? Well, golly, that must read like a bat signal to the NCAA.
Last month, we wrote about the NCAA's involvement with New Jersey's attempt to legalize sports gambling. Perhaps that should read lack of involvement, considering the college athletics governing body decided to ban all NCAA events from being hosted in New Jersey in the wake of the governor's fight, despite the state not yet having a law that allows gambling on the books; a law, by the way, that would prohibit taking wagers on any of New Jersey's college teams or any NCAA event held in the state.
Still, the NCAA saw a stand that needed to be taken—an example that needed to be made—and preemptively banned any NCAA events from being hosted in New Jersey, which included, most recently, the undefeated Montclair State women's basketball team hosting a few games in the Division III tournament this season.
Yes, the NCAA really knows how to make a point.
Until, of course, they unmake it. The NCAA reversed its decision to ban events in New Jersey on Wednesday, allowing in-state institutions to now host their championship events. It's too late for Montclair State, and it's too late to reverse the decision to move select 2014 and 2015 NCAA men's basketball tournament games back to the Prudential Center in Newark, but hey...progress.
Why the sudden change of course now? Well, the NCAA decision came shortly after a federal judge ruled against Christie's bid to legalize sports gambling. No gambling, no problem for the NCAA. Per NJ.com:
The decision marks the latest turning point in a struggle between college sports’ governing body and Christie over a complex issue — whether gambling and collegiate sports can co-exist in the state without corruption seeping in. But it comes too late to save a number of premier events, starting with the loss of two home playoff games for Montclair State’s undefeated women’s basketball team.
And it won’t undo the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s decision to bypass the Prudential Center in Newark as the stage for either the 2014 or 2015 Men’s East Regional Basketball Championships. Instead, the 2014 games will be wind up across the river at Madison Square Garden, and Syracuse will get the tournament games the next year, a missed opportunity, which by some estimates will cost Newark more than $6 million.
Good thing there isn't any gambling going on in New York City. Nope, it would be impossible to post a wager on an NCAA event in the entire city or state of New York, that's for sure.
On the one hand, the NCAA consistently looks the other way at the illegal gambling that keeps its marquee events relevant in the sports world, while the other hand doggedly attempts to send a message to the state of New Jersey for daring to legalize sports gambling around the state's already-established gambling halls.
The NCAA's hypocrisy has reached the point of utter hilarity.
Per NJ.com, the organization sent a memo to New Jersey institutions explaining the decision had been reversed while ostensibly threatening that the ban would be re-instated if the state can successfully appeal the court's ruling.
I'm sure the Montclair State women's basketball team has enough pull in the governor's office to demand he stop trying to make money for the state by legalizing a multibillion dollar industry. Moving a few tournament games across state borders is really sending a stern message to those in power of the Garden State.
Let's call this what it is: The NCAA is holding New Jersey schools—and the student-athletes from those schools—hostage. "You can have your precious events back, but tell your governor to give up his fight or we'll blow this tournament to smithereens."
The organization had the temerity to put out a statement that said, in part, "We are excited that New Jersey student-athletes can now compete on their home field."
Can? CAN?!?! Is this like when we were in grade school and we asked our teacher, "Can I go to the bathroom," and she quipped back, "I don't know, can you?"
I don't know, NCAA, can they?
Can the New Jersey institutions you punished for no reason host their tournament events again? Using the word "can" in that statement sure makes it seem like each individual school had a choice in the matter.
The statement is so typical of the NCAA: The governing body is waging political and bureaucratic war with the state of New Jersey, but those in charge are excited the student-athletes can now compete on their home fields.
Sometimes, the NCAA just can't get out of its own way. Wait, maybe it can.