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March Madness is one of the few times of the year when the entire American population is talking about one big event. For the uninitiated, March Madness is the NCAA Division Men’s Basketball Tournament which was termed for the first time as March Madness in 1939. This year the Big Dance of college hoops will be being hosted at the Lucas Oil Stadium (and other venues) in Indianapolis, Indiana is bound to have its own quirks during the age of covid. Learn how to watch the Big Dance your way, here.
March Madness is a huge event and each game typically receives about 10.5 million viewers – quite an impressive number considering the fact that there are 67 games during the tournament. The excitement of the event attracts people who typically would not watch basketball, who will join in the fun by filling out workplace brackets, joining pools, and watching their chosen team compete. In 2019, an estimated 47 million people placed bets on the event. Even Warren Buffet gets in on the fun and has historically offered massive rewards – upwards of $1 billion – to anyone who can fill out a perfect bracket.
Check out our March Madness Betting Guide to learn the ins and outs of this year’s Indianapolis frenzy so that your picks come out on top.
However, there is undeniably a dark cloud of criminality lurking over the festivities, fun, and excitement of March Madness. The crimes and criminal activities relating to March Madness are as varied as the teams themselves. There have been high-level bribery investigations involving the FBI, takedowns of large brackets and pools, and large-scale phishing and cyberattacks. Below are some of the most notable incidents of criminality related to March Madness and how, when applicable, you can best protect yourself, as well as some fun statistics around the event.
Over the course of just a few short weeks, 68 different basketball teams from colleges around the country will go head to head and climb their way to the top of the bracket. Check out the WSN March Madness Free-to-Play Pick ’em Contest for your chance to win up to $5800 during this year’s games. The contest, unlike your usual bracket, has three legs meaning you have three chances to win!
The NCAAB has had many incidents that fans may prefer to forget, but the facts remain that there have been many scandals over the course of the existence of the College league. Below are some of the most startling scandals hanging over the league, national title, and national championship today.
In 2018, NCAA fans around the United States were amazed when all of the favorite, top teams were excluded from the tournament. All of the teams which were excluded were part of an FBI investigation into alleged payments that were being made to student-athletes by coaches. The NCAA prohibits any and all financial assistance to student-athletes unless the assistance is coming from the student’s parents or university. The athletes are not entitled to receive free travel, clothing, gifts, or other benefits from third parties, and neither can their families. Although at this point, the teams were still only under investigation, they were still barred from playing by the NCAA, in a move that seemed to signal to the teams that they were being punished before law enforcement had decided to press charges.
While the scandal was unfolding Gonzaga coach Mark Few was noted for criticizing the NCAAB leadership for apartment slow-rolling the investigations. Saying, among other things, I’m disappointed. I don’t think this something the NCAA needs to take their time on.” The results of the ongoing investigations are below.
Affected Teams and Persons
Other Programs Implicated in the Ongoing Scandal
Other Players Implicated in the Scandal
Internal documents indicated that there were many players who took a gift as small as a paid meal from a recruiter. One professional recruiter who bought meals during meetings with players was nailed by prosecutors. He was sentenced to prison time for wire fraud and bribery charges.
The following players were implicated for taking some form of small handout or bribe, which could have been as small as a hamburger or as large as a cashout.
In the 1988-99 season assistant coach at Iowa, Bruce Pearl (formerly of Tennessee), was implicated in the middle of a recruiting scandal involving Illinois. Both schools had been courting player Deon Thomas. Pearl lost the battle to Illinois, and then called the student and recorded the conversation, something that in itself may have been illegal. In the conversation, Thomas indicated he was paid by Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins and was also given an SUV.
Thomas later passed a polygraph to the contrary and an internal NCAA investigation cleared Illinois of wrongdoing. Since the investigations, however, further investigations have uncovered other violations by Illinois since then resulting in several recruiting restrictions and a one-year postseason ban.
After the world moved on from the scandal Pearl and Collins coached against one another at Illinois-Chicago and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The two coaches were known to never shake hands after a game with Collins commencing that he never shakes hands with snakes.
Player friends Carlton Dotson and Patrick James Dennehy both joined the Baylor Bears University team. Reports surfaced in the Summer of 2003 that both Dennehy and Dotson were worried about their safety and that they had purchased some firearms and were practicing with them in the countryside. Supposedly the pair were worried about threats made by fellow teammates.
The pair went missing over the course of a few days leading to the investigation which culminated in the discovery of Dotson’s body. Investigations showed that Dennehy, who was suffering from some sort of breakdown, was the one who killed Dotson. After a brief stay in a mental institution, he pled guilty to the killing and was sentenced to 35 years in prison where he remains to this day.
The incident was hugely damaging to the Baylor community, which held a campus-wide memorial and a charity event featuring Bill Cosby.
After turning around basketball programs at teams such as UCLA Head Coach Jim Harrick was in high demand, that’s when he joined the Georgia Bulldogs. Soon his son, Jim Harrick Jr. also joined up as an assistant coach, but it wasn’t long before the pair were in some hot water.
Harrick Jr. taught a class on the strategies of basketball and it was revealed that several players on the team were receiving A grades in a class they didn’t even attend.
The fallout was swift with Harrick Jr. being fired and his dad going on suspension and quickly retiring from the team. An NCAA investigation found the team to be in the wrong and forced the Bulldogs to vacate 30 previous wins and go on a 4-year suspension.
Harrick Jr. got the worst of the punishments with a seven-year show-cause penalty order for the fraud and also instructing players to lie to the NCAA on his behalf. He was planned from college rank basketball until 2011.
The mid-1980/90’s Michigan Wolverines were a force to be reckoned with their basketball program was widely considered one of the countries best for the decade. But that all came crashing down in 1996 when team mega-booster Ed Martin was exposed for loaning a total of $616,000 to several Michigan players.
The fallout of the scandal led to the team losing several post-season appearances and awards earned by the implicated team members, as well as coach Steve Fisher, who had led the team to three championships losing his job.
After an immense uphill battle to rebuild the Florida Gators Basketball team, head coach Norm Sloan and his entire coaching staff was forced to resign days before the start of the 1989-90 season.
The Florida program was punished with a two-year probation for numerous other majot=r violations going back to 1985. They also had two tournament appearances during that time erased from their record. Sloan was also given a five-year ban from NCAAB appearances.
In 2015 the NCAA punished WV’s athletic department for improperly contacting protect recruits via unusual channels. Among the programs affected were the women’s and men’s basketball teams. The resulting scandal gave way to two-year probation for the college’s athletics department.
In a scandal that likely finished Buckeyes coach Jim O’Brien’s career, the Buckeyes were implicated in a scandal centered around Montenegrin player Slobodan Savovic and a nanny from a Columbus neighborhood in a scheme where the nanny alleged that Buckeyes booster Km Roslovic agreed to pay her $1,000 per month to care for Savovic.
The scandal implicated that Savovic was receiving financial assistance and help on his homework via the nanny in a secret agreement arranged by the school and their boosters.
Ohio State was placed on a three ears probation and O’Brien was fired due to a separate pay-to-play recruitment scheme. The team also had to vacate every game in which Savovic played including a Final Four appearance.
The entire incident led to the beginning of another, unexpected conversation – why are college basketball players not getting paid in the first place? Student-athletes have their tuition paid for, they receive a stipend, and they are able to attract the attention of professional teams. However, the vast majority of college athletes do not end up playing for professional teams and instead are left at the end of their time in college exhausted, oftentimes injured, and likely with a degree such as General Studies, Communication, or Sports Management which will not prove especially beneficial in today’s competitive job market.
On top of that, college athletes generate billions of dollars in revenue for their schools. One study found that if college football players were paid according to the amount of money they generate (like in the NBA), they would easily take home a six-figure salary and top players like Trevor Lawrence would earn roughly $2.4 million per season. To some, the real crime here is how college players are used by colleges to generate millions of dollars in profit, in return for very little.
Depending on where you live, and how your bracket is run, it might not actually be legal. In many states, it is illegal to run a contest that includes entry fees and prizes, if state regulators and law enforcement think that your contest is one based on chance. While March Madness brackets certainly do involve an element of skill, statistical knowledge, and foresight, they also involve luck and chance. In certain states, Americans running the larger pools have been arrested, and even jailed for their participation in the contest management.
If you are the person in your office or friend group who is running the pool and also holding the money, this might make you feel somewhat nervous. However, the good news is that many states have what are called recreational gaming exceptions, which allow small groups of friends to enjoy recreational gambling. This means that you are allowed to have a poker night with your buddies without the police breaking down your door, and you can run a small, friendly March Madness pool without worry. As long as your pool is small and private, and no one is charging a ‘service’ or ‘organizer’ fee, you won’t have to be overly concerned about law enforcement paying you a visit.
If you are an employer, you are based in a state that does not allow gambling, and you are concerned about the potential scale of the pool which will be created in your office, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that everyone can enjoy March Madness safely. You should draft a plan with your company’s Legal and HR departments for how to roll out office-wide rules that allow your employees to enjoy March Madness, without breaking any federal or state laws.
While the rest of the country is getting ready for the chaos and excitement of March Madness, hackers and scammers are also preparing to unleash a new round of attacks on unsuspecting basketball fans. Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for a good time to catch people when they are distracted and less liable to suspect an attack – March Madness is the perfect time for such attacks because most people are focused on the games and are hurriedly checking their stats, without taking the time to carefully check the URL of the links they are clicking and pages they are visiting. The North Carolina Department of IT even has a page specifically regarding avoiding scams during this time.
In 2019, it was estimated that roughly three billion fake emails are sent every day. Although many of us receive mandatory cybersecurity training at work, phishing emails are quickly becoming so sophisticated and advanced, that they can fool nearly anyone into clicking the link provided. There have also been so many high-profile data leaks in the last few years that it is easier than ever for hackers to find your personal information and craft a realistic-looking email. Once you have clicked the link or accidentally provided your personal information, hackers will use the information you have given to potentially steal more of your personal data or financial information.
Employers are especially at risk during March Madness and ideally, additional cybersecurity training should be provided to employees right before the kick-off of the tournament. Many workplaces have office-wide pools and team brackets and emotions in the office can run high.
If employees are constantly checking on scores, switching between work-related webpages and sports updates, there is a chance for suspicious-looking emails and links to go unheeded. Rather than cracking down on the fun of March Madness, employers can effectively protect their companies by taking the time to communicate with their staff and emphasize the significance of online safety and caution when clicking links.
Regardless of the time of year, it is worth taking the time to learn best practices for online safety both at work and at home. Phishing emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated and nuanced and now can entrap nearly anyone. However, a little training and awareness go a long way. Educating yourself and your employees on how to identify phishing scenarios by using mock phishing examples is a great way to spread awareness. If you are an employer, you should also invest in spam filters and security software and ensure that sensitive company information is encrypted.
Ultimately, however, March Madness is a time to kick back and enjoy a bit of friendly competition and community, particularly considering the lack of major sporting events for much of last year. While the usual 19% spike in pizza sales might take a bit of a hit without our buddies present, the event itself promises to be as captivating as ever.
Final Four – The last four teams in the bracket play two round games to decide who goes on to the final game. This round is effectively a semifinal.
Elite Eight – The last eight teams stage of the bracket. This is after the Sweet 16 and before the Final Four.
First Four – This set of four game matchups is used to determine who the last few teams will be that get to join the March Madness Bracket.
Selection Sunday – The Sunday before March Madness when the NCAA announces the teams that will be playing in this year’s bracket.
Big Ten – The top ten Division 1 teams in the Nation. Check this year’s Big 10 Predictions here.
Big East – The Big East Conference is a conference like the Big Ten but this one is held in the East.
Big 12 – The Big 12 is a collegiate conference consisting of ten member teams.
SEC Tournament – The SEC Tournament is a tournament for Southeastern Conference.
ACC Basketball Tournament – The ACC Tournament is the conference championship for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Cinderella – A team that unexpectedly came from behind to win it all.
Championship Game – the final title game in the full March Madness bracket.
First Round – The first huge round of games in the bracket. This happens after the First Four and before the Second Round.
NCAA Tournament Games – Also used to determine who will be joining March Madness every year.
Conference Tournaments – These are conducted before March Madness and are used to determine who will be attending.
Pac-12 – A Pacific Coast Conference that began in 1915-16.
Second Round – This round of March Madness takes place after the First Round and before the Sweet 16.
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