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Pitt AD Heather Lyke has concerns about legalized betting on college athletics

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, June 7, 2018, 8:15 p.m.
Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said schools must be vigilant now that the Supreme Court has given states power to legalize sports betting.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said schools must be vigilant now that the Supreme Court has given states power to legalize sports betting.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke has been around collegiate athletes long enough to know how they think. In fact, she was one while playing softball at Michigan.

Merely saying “Don't do it,” isn't always enough to discourage young people from traveling down the wrong road, she said.

Which is where she stands on the subject of legalized gambling as it pertains to collegiate athletics. The Supreme Court gave individual states the OK to legalize gambling on sports, which triggered discussions at a recent meeting of ACC athletic directors, Lyke said.

“We say things like, ‘Just don't bet on (games),' ” she said. “But that's a pretty vanilla education program. We need to really heighten our awareness.”

She said keeping an eye on outsiders might be one preventative measure schools can take.

“We need to be scrutinizing people around the program, people asking lots of questions, who's hurt, who's not,” she said. “Who our kids are leaving tickets to.

“The reality is I'm most concerned about the integrity of the game and the safety and well-being of our student-athletes and them not getting mixed up in things.”

Lyke said she has plenty of concerns as she stewards 19 athletic programs at Pitt. This issue adds one more to the pile

“I worry a lot. These are kids who didn't grow up with circular driveways. That's how Bobby Huggins (West Virginia basketball coach) used to describe them. And so temptation is real. They don't have a lot.

“I believe kids, by and large, they believe in the integrity of the game. They're not into throwing games and things like that. But other people are.”

Gamblers have bet on college and pro sports for decades, but Lyke said legalization opens new avenues.

“I think it's going to be more escalated than we've been used to, for sure,” she said.

She wants to make sure those people who want their team to win by a certain score don't get too close to the teams.

“ ‘We want you to win, just don't win by more than 10,' ” she said, mimicking what many gamblers might say to an athlete.

“Then, you have one kid who takes it and then they get sucked in, and then they get down money. I think it's out there. We'll just have to heighten our education and bring in some people who have had experience with it. They can hear first-hand how it can go wrong.

“Hopefully, we don't have to deal with it too much. But it's real. It's not a taboo topic.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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