NCAA Says Student-Athletes Will Lose Year of Eligibility for Playing Daily Fantasy Sports

The NCAA is prohibiting its student-athletes from playing daily fantasy sports. Jim Young/Reuters

If you're an athlete, don't bet on sports. If a few innocent wagers relegating Pete Rose to signing autographs on the streets of Cooperstown every year while less-accomplished former players get inducted into the Hall of Fame hasn't taught you to heed this simple directive, nothing will. And if you're a student-athlete playing for nothing more than the wholesome fun of the game and a good education, you better not even think of sullying the sacred bond between college athlete and the NCAA with money.

This is not a joke. In 2003, University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel was fired simply for participating in a March Madness bracket pool with friends. Today, star players are routinely investigated for potentially profiting off their own name while still in school. Georgia Tech wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell has even had to take precautions in promoting a children's book he wrote. So no, the NCAA is not about money (except for the hundreds of millions of dollars athletic programs are making on the backs of student-athletes who sometimes aren't even able to afford dinner).

But what about daily fantasy sports? You know, DraftKings and FanDuel? They're legal, and technically not gambling. The federal government says so. Even Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner deeply concerned with the "integrity of the game," has drawn a line between fantasy sports and gambling, allowing players to accept "prizes" earned through fantasy sports up to $250.

But the NCAA is not having it. Earlier this week, Oliver Luck, the NCAA's vice president of regulatory affairs, clarified the organization's stance on placing money on sports in light of the rise in popularity of daily fantasy sports. Student-athletes found to be participating in these leagues, Luck said, will be docked one year of eligibility. The restriction isn't surprising; it's entirely in line with the NCAA's policy of wagering on sports. From the NCAA's website:

The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.

ESPN reports that some athletic directors who were present at the meeting questioned whether banning daily fantasy sports would be "legally sustainable," and offered that instead maybe the NCAA could only restrict student-athletes from wagering on collegiate athletics. But like the NFL, the NCAA is such a monolithic organization that it essentially operates in its own world, independent of pesky issues like "legal sustainability." If anyone tries to take them to court—which is unlikely, especially in the case of college students (as opposed to, say, Tom Brady)—the NCAA if fully equipped to defend itself.

There is one thing you can bet on when it comes to the NCAA, though: that it's going to do all it can to restrict the rights of student-athletes. Regardless of whether they can monitor their fantasy sports-playing habits and regardless of whether a college kid putting money down on an NFL fantasy team he constructed is going to have any conceivable impact on the integrity of the totally unrelated college game, the NCAA is still going to try to prevent it from happening.

Why? Because the more agency it gives to student-athletes, the less it can control them.