In it's battle to keep New Jersey from bringing legal sports betting to casinos and race tracks, the NCAA has used sanctimonious claims and an almost-superhuman ability to deny the obvious.

A lawsuit by the NCAA and professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey challenges New Jersey's sports betting law by claiming that sporting contests would be "irreparably harmed" by betting in New Jersey - harm, we are to believe, that has not resulted from legal sports betting in Las Vegas or the huge amount of illegal betting that openly takes place across the country.

Now, the NCAA has added another tactic - taking out its displeasure on the little guys.

On Tuesday, the NCAA pulled six championships scheduled to be played at New Jersey schools in 2013, making pawns of small schools and collegiate athletes.

The move affects championships and regional competitions in wrestling, diving, volleyball, women's lacrosse and women's basketball that were scheduled to be played at The College of New Jersey, Stevens Institute of Technology, Montclair State University and at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton.

The NCAA's decision also means New Jersey schools such as Rowan University and The Richard Stockton College would no longer be eligible to host early-round Division II and III games. In the past 10 years, Stockton has hosted Division III tournament games in men's and women's soccer and men's and women's basketball.

The NCAA pulled the tournaments a day after the Division of Gaming Enforcement published rules for sports betting in the New Jersey Register. The athletic association said its rules prohibit college tournaments in states that allow single-game gambling.

Except that even if New Jersey has sports betting up and running by next year, no one will be able to legally bet on college games held within the state - or on college games involving New Jersey schools held anywhere.

So pulling college tournaments out of New Jersey protects the integrity of nothing and no one. The NCAA is just flexing its muscles here.

Admittedly, critics have a point when they ask why New Jersey is barring bets on college games within the state if there's really no chance that betting can have a corrupting influence.

But professional sports leagues and the NCAA are being hypocritical when they pretend they don't know illegal betting goes on - and boosts interest in their sports - or when they claim that betting in New Jersey will somehow corrupt sports in a way that betting elsewhere has not.

Beyond that, it's more than just mean-spirited to punish New Jersey athletes and small schools over this legal battle. It's poor sportsmanship.

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