NCAA Betting Pools Form In Dorms, Departments

March Madness has come to Harvard.

After a week of cramming for midterms, students are now staking time and money on their ability to predict the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four of the NCAA Division I Men's basketball tournament.

Undergraduates, graduates and even professors have entered betting pools in which participants try to guess the winners of all the games in this year's tourney. Contestants enter a pool by paying a small fee, and those who guess most accurately win shares of the money.

"It's surprising that it takes no knowledge at all about college basketball to do well in the pool," Philip N. Vaccaro '97 said. Vaccaro is in a pool in Weld Hall of about 20 students, each of whom paid three dollars to participate.

The pool members watch the games together in his suite, Vaccaro said.

"If we had cable we could get ESPN, and we could keep track of all the scores more easily," said Adam S. Hootnick '97, who is also in the Weld pool. "So we're hopingthat all the houses have cable by the time we getthere."

Hootnick picked Purdue to win over Arkansas inthe final, but supports Syracuse in his heart, hesaid.

Assistant Professor of Government Edward P.Schwartz said he joined a pool with some graduatestudents in his department. They are playing for"small stakes," he said.

"I don't expect to do better than anyone elsesimply because I'm a game theorist," saidSchwartz, who taught Government 1098 "Games andDecision: Theories of Collective Choice" lastsemester.

Game theory, Schwartz said, is not of much usein winning a betting pool, because bettors'decisions do not affect the outcome of the games.

"This is more like decision theory," saidSchwartz, who picked Arkansas to win.

There are at least two pools in Currier House,said one resident who requested anonymity.

One was an auction in which 60 residents each"bought" a team. The proceeds will be given as aprize to those whose teams progress in thetournament, said the student.

Another pool is made up of between 85 and 90residents of Currier and Leverett houses. Eachparticipant paid five dollars, he said.

Although many students joined pools for theprospect of making big bucks, others say they areparticipating just for the fun of it.

"We're all big basketball fans," said Rudd W.Coffey '97, who is in a twelve-person pool. "It'sfun to do it without money, because you can pickthe teams that you want to root for, instead ofthe teams that are the safe bets," added Coffey,who predicted-- accurately --that his home-townteam of Tulsa would upset UCLA.

Coffey is really rooting for Arkansas, he said,because two of his high school friends are on theteam. He predicted that Arkansas will defeatConnecticut in the final game.

Will there ever come a day when students cancheer on the Crimson in a NCAA tournament?

"We have a strong freshman team," Coffey said."There always is a possibility.