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NCAA Updates Sports Betting Policies

By: Sarah Overton

(Photo courtesy Getty Images)

In the wake of recent scandals involving illegal sports betting at several prominent Power Five universities across the nation, the NCAA has updated some of its punishments regarding sports betting.

In a statement released in June 2023, the NCAA announced that it would be introducing a new tiered discipline system in hopes of adjusting its policies to the legalization of sports betting in several states.

The new system will be used for any cases reported on or after May 2, and aims to impose varying degrees of punishments on student-athletes based on the extent of their involvement in betting activities. This move is seen as a proactive measure by the NCAA to safeguard the integrity of college sports and uphold fair play among student-athletes.

“These new guidelines modernize penalties for college athletes at a time when sports wagering has been legalized in dozens of states and is easily accessible nationwide with online betting platforms,” Jacksonville University athletic director and Division 1 Legislative Committee chairman Alex Ricker-Gilbert said. “While sports wagering by college athletes is still a concern - particularly as we remain committed to preserving the integrity of competition in college sports - consideration of mitigating factors is appropriate as staff prescribe penalties for young people who have made mistakes in this space.”

Under the NCAA’s new system, student-athletes found wagering or providing inside information to bettors on their own games should expect to receive the highest level of punishment.

The NCAA’s press release stated these athletes could “potentially face permanent loss of collegiate eligibility in all sports…” and this severity of punishment could “also apply to student-athletes who wager on their own games or on other sports at their own schools.”

Other changes to the NCAA’s sports betting policies include lessening the punishment for student-athletes who place bets on professional sports. This category of discipline depends on the cumulative amount of money wagered.

For example, the NCAA stated that student-athletes who wagered over $800 on a professional sports game could be sidelined for 30% of their season and be required to complete a rules and prevention education class.

(Sportscaster Scott Van Pelt criticizes the NCAA for putting their anti-sports betting campaign,“Don’t Bet On It” on March Madness brackets in 2017. Photo courtesy ESPN/Youtube)

Recent investigations into high-profile sports programs within the NCAA exposed coaches and student-athletes participating in illegal sports betting, sparking concerns about potential match-fixing and corruption.

These investigations include scandals involving former University of Alabama head baseball coach Brad Bohannon and several sports teams at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

Bohannon was relieved of his coaching duties in early May. Since then, details about his involvement in a bet against his Crimson Tide at an Ohio sportsbook have been made public.

Bohannon was found communicating with Bert Eugene Neff Jr., who tried to place over $100,000 cash wager on the April 28 LSU-Alabama game. The sportsbook denied Neff’s bet as the cash amount “far exceeded the sportsbook’s established house limit on college baseball.”

As the NCAA investigated, it was revealed that the sportsbook’s security cameras had captured texts on Neff’s phone from Bohannon that said the Crimson Tide were scratching their star pitcher, Luke Holman.

Sources also stated that Bohannon was in group chats with several other “gambling associates” and people who tried to place a bet on the LSU-Alabama game.

Shortly after Bohannon was fired from the University of Alabama, the NCAA and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) announced an investigation into over 100 current and former student-athletes at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

In an interview with Legal Sports Report, Matt Holt, founder and CEO of U.S. Integrity, an independent sports wagering monitoring company, said student-athletes were logging into sports betting platforms while at athletic facilities, which raised suspicions within DCI.

“If they’re logging in from the field, gymnasium, practice facility or arena at a time when there’s no fans, no vendors, no real security, it’s really easy to catch,” Holt said. “And that’s going to spark things to these state regulators, who are going to say, ‘Hmm … Why are we getting 200 logins from the men’s locker room at Iowa St. right now?’”

So far, no specific athletes or team personnel have been publicly suspended from Iowa State University or the University of Iowa.

The implementation of the new sports betting policies marks a significant step towards safeguarding the integrity of college sports and upholding the principles that the NCAA stands for. It sends a clear message that any form of illegal sports betting will not be tolerated within the realm of collegiate athletics.

As these new rules take effect, the NCAA hopes to deter future violations and restore public confidence in the integrity of college sports. The organization remains committed to promoting fair competition, protecting student-athletes’ welfare, and fostering an environment of respect, honesty, and sportsmanship in all facets of collegiate athletics.

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