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NCAA Says Athletes Participating in FanDuel, DraftKings Risk Losing Eligibility

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2015

In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, photo, Devlin D'Zmura, a tending news manager at DraftKings, a daily fantasy sports company, works on his laptop at the company's offices in Boston. The daily fantasy sports industry is eyeing a breakout season as NFL games begin. And its two dominant companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, are touting lucrative opening week prizes to try to draw more customers as more competitors pop up. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

College sports fans can rarely go five minutes nowadays without being pitched the virtues of daily fantasy sports. However, the NCAA has one message to student-athletes who have thought about taking the plunge: Stay far, far away.  

NCAA vice president for regulatory affairs Oliver Luck said Tuesday that any student-athlete caught gambling on college sports—including DFS—will be subject to a one-year ban, per Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin:       

Scott Stricklin @ScottStricklin

Listening to NCAA’s Oliver Luck speak this morning in Dallas. He reminds that …

Scott Stricklin @ScottStricklin

… any athlete found to be gambling on college sports (includes daily fantasy such as Draft Kings) automatically loses a year of eligibility.

On Wednesday, Jeff Long said "SEC ADs requested that FanDuel/DraftKings ads be removed from the SEC Network, despite the loss of revenue," per Andrew Hutchinson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The distinction Luck makes is interesting simply because DFS companies like DraftKings and FanDuel have publicly avoided association with gambling. DraftKings' official website notes that its service is legal because it falls under skill-based gambling, which is allowed in 45 of 50 states. DraftKings and FanDuel specifically prohibit participants from the five states where skill-based gambling is still considered illegal.

Because DFS websites include college sports, it would make some sense for the NCAA to look harshly on athletes caught participating. Like standard sports gambling, the monetary rewards associated with DFS could create a potential conflict to the competition's integrity. It's worth noting that Luck did not say athletes were banned from participating in leagues that only include professional teams.

Increased attention on college sports gambling has created some controversy already in the 2015 football season. ESPN had been planning to use "cover alerts" for college football spreads this season but discontinued the initiative after one week—at least in part because of concerns raised by some in the college football community

“We did it once. I didn’t like it, and we stopped it,” said John Wildhack, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and production, in an interview with John Ourand and Michael Smith of Sports Business Daily. “To me, it was too overt. Part of everything we do has a little bit of trial and error.”

As daily fantasy sports and gambling in general become a more accepted part of the cultural lexicon, expect the NCAA to draw clearer and clearer lines about what's allowed from its student-athletes.

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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