SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – The NCAA’s stance against the sports gambling of its athletes and those working in college athletics is simply summed up by the slogan of the posters the association offers to its member schools: “Don’t bet on it.”
The rules have been unequivocal for decades, forming part of the basic guideline for half a million amateur athletes. But with sports betting now legal in more than half of the states and millions flowing to professional sports leagues that were once apprehensive, college conferences are also beginning to explore ways to take advantage.
The Mid-American Conference was the first to jump in, selling rights to its data and statistics to a company called Genius Sports, which in turn sold it to sports bookmakers.
Expect others to follow, but the extra revenue will come with greater responsibility. And in a time of radical change in college sports, with athletes now able to make money with their fame and the viability and necessity of the NCAA in question, legalized, easy-to-access gaming represents newer ground to navigate.
While the NCAA does not preclude such trade agreements, actual sports betting remains a violation for those involved in college sports.
“They’ve been able to look the other way and say, ‘Oh, this is all happening here.’ works with professional sports leagues and college conferences to control gambling inaccuracies.
Holt said college sports are especially ripe for potential scandals due to a lack of transparency regarding player availability, the explosion of support agreements for athletes that include reinforcements, and the potential for unpaid players to bet on themselves. themselves with ease.
Holt said regulated sports betting in the United States was on track to raise $ 125 billion this year.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has raised $ 20 million in bets this year, Holt said, and a college football Saturday is betting more money than the typical NFL Sunday.
Although all major professional sports leagues have financial agreements with online bookmakers, college conferences have been slow to come into play. MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said it was impossible to ignore the changing reality.
“What we’ve done, in fact, is take sports betting out of the dark corners and put it in the sun and more transparency. And more eyes set. That’s positive, it’s not negative,” he said.
Next season, those weekday MAC football games could be more appealing than ever to players, with the help of Genius.
The London-based company also offers a layer of protection to its partners, including the NFL, by analyzing data and relationships with sports bookmakers, said Sean Conroy, vice president of Genius Sports for North America.
At a conference meeting earlier this month in Arizona, Holt warned sports directors and Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 league executives of the differences between college and professional sports that make the university more susceptible to corruption. .
First, college conferences do not require teams and coaches to disclose the status of the injury and the availability of players for the games. The NFL, on the other hand, publishes an injury report three times a week.
Holt said that by hiding information about injuries, a college coach is making those who know, from coaching staff to team managers and players, bribed targets to take advantage of betting.
“So I think the college space, if they’re going to open this category for admissions and monetization, you have to take responsibility for taking a step forward in injury information and availability reports,” Holt said.
Second, with college athletes now allowed to make money for support deals, Holt said there should be limits on individuals betting on athletes who are also paying.
“Let’s say Tommy’s Used Car Shop gives the quarterback $ 100,000 a year to the university and a NIL (offer),” Holt said. “Well, the owner of Tommy’s used car shop shouldn’t be able to bet on that university. It’s a conflict of interest. It has a direct influence on the player.”
Holt said professional leagues do a good job of identifying “people of influence” and putting restrictions on sports bookmakers.
Third, and perhaps most problematic, is the ease with which athletes can bet on themselves. Many online bookmakers allow users to place support bets by betting on individual performances in a given game. Can a quarterback throw at least three touchdown passes? Will the six assists reach the base?
Instead of being paid to influence the final score of a game, as was the case with point-shaving scandals involving athletes at schools like Boston College, Toledo, and San Diego, athletes can only manipulate their own statistics.
Even with the increase in NIL opportunities for college athletes, the vast majority are earning modest sums, if any.
“And it’s easier for fixsters to get close to those players because they don’t have to ask the player to fix a game,” Holt said. “” Hey, not only do we expect your team to win, we also expect you to play very well. You don’t have nine rebounds. “
Holt said that with the defense of the integrity of the United States, three states have made individual betting of players at college sporting events illegal.
“The other 30 said,‘ Thank you for the wonderful information, Matt, but DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars, who have big pressure groups, wanted it and they win, ’” Holt said.
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