WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two dozen college coaches and officials fanned out across Capitol Hill on Wednesday to urge Congress to approve a bill banning gambling on amateur sports.
Wagering on college sports ``takes away from the very innocence of our game,'' Penn State basketball coach Jerry Dunn said.
Among those accompanying Dunn were Georgia State basketball coach Lefty Driesell, South Carolina football coach Lou Holtz and retired Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. They wore buttons with the words, ``Don't bet on my game.''
Wallace Renfro, director of public relations for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said the coaches planned to meet with 65 members of the House and Senate. The NCAA paid for their trips to Washington.
The NCAA backs a bill that would outlaw wagering on college, high school and Olympic sports. Nevada is the only state where sports wagering is legal, and then only on college sports.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a sponsor of the bill, admitted he was surprised when opponents almost killed the legislation in the Senate Commerce Committee last month.
The committee split 10-10 over whether to gut the bill. The tie vote meant the bill survived. But it also showed that bill opponents had made progress since last year, when all but two members of the committee supported a ban.
McCain and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said they plan to force a floor vote on the bill by offering it as an amendment, but do not know when they will do so.
McCain said he has no doubt a majority of senators would support the ban if forced to cast a roll-call vote. The question, he said, is whether the Senate's new Democratic leaders will be any more willing than their GOP predecessors to allow a floor vote.
``We need to get rid of the logjam,'' said the Rev. Monk A. Malloy, president of the University of Notre Dame. ``We need to get this legislation on the floor.''
Opponents of the bill maintain the vast majority of sports betting is done illegally, outside Nevada, and that Nevada's regulated sports-betting industry helps law enforcement detect point-shaving scams. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has said his state would sue if the bill becomes law.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who represents Las Vegas, said Wednesday that the coaches ``ought to go back to their college campuses, implement anti-gambling programs and get control of their student-athletes.''
Memphis basketball coach John Calipari agreed that betting on amateur sports is a problem that goes beyond Nevada's legal gambling operations. But ``until we close that loophole, we can't move on from here,'' Calipari said.