NCAA Conference Commissioners Discuss Legal Sports Betting

NCAA Conference Commissioners Discuss Legal Sports Betting

At a slew of scheduled summer media days this week in preparation for the opening of the fall sports seasons, the commissioners of several NCAA conferences were able to discuss their takes on sports betting.

The college sports figureheads took advantage of their platforms to share their positions on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn PASPA in May for the first time officially. The general consensus appears to be a cautious optimism due to a lack of real knowledge or experience dealing with betting.

Swofford Taking Changes in Stride

ACC commissioner John Swofford appeared interested in dealing with the issue as it stands and hoping for the best while trying to take negative stereotypes and implications around gambling with a grain of salt.

“I think we just have to plow into this, understand it as best we can, and see if it really is as – if you’re really opposed to it, see if it’s as bad as we really think it is – because I don’t think we know.”

One interesting tidbit from Swofford’s appearance was his acknowledgment of the push by professional sports leagues to collect integrity fees. These fees would supposedly compensate the leagues for taking security measures against dishonest betting behavior.

“You see people talking about, 'Let's get a 1 percent integrity fee to try to manage this on our campus with our athletes. Then you have others say we're going to ask to make money out of this, in which people are betting on our players and we're going to take money because people are betting on our players. Some people have a moral problem with that.”

The release of injury reports by programs in relation to sports betting became a recurring topic amongst the media appearances and Swofford made his own suppositions at how they might be handled.

“My guess is we will have a national - I won’t even call it an injury report because I think that we need to include other situations that would be in sync, be consistent across the country…I think that reduces to some degree people you don’t really want coming around players and managers and doctors and anybody associated with the program, coaches, trying to get information in another kind of way, in an underhanded kind of way.”

Sankey More Bullish On Betting

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey seemed to take a much more positive tone when speaking about sports betting. As one of the most popular and lucrative conferences in college football the SEC would stand to see a lot of action in the coming season as sports betting continues its growth.

“Gambling activity around sports is not new and that includes gambling activity around collegiate sports. One of the lessons is those involved in legalized gambling are the best at knowing what’s happened. I think some of the state laws include expectations for communication around transparency.”

Sankey still claimed that maintaining the integrity of college football games was of the “utmost importance” to him and other commissioners and figureheads of the sport and that it should remain at the forefront of most decisions regarding how to move forward.

“While it may be preferred to have no expansion of gambling activity, what is needed now is for our state and federal legislative leads to enact policies that properly support the integrity of our games and provide the necessary protections for our students and our student-athletes.”

On the subject of injury reports, Sankey admitted that “FERPA and HIPAA requirements, academic suspensions, other team or athletics’ department imposed suspensions and NCAA eligibility” all make the case for potentially providing them.

Bowlsby Cautious and Looking to Learn

Perhaps the most honest breakdown of opinion on the recent changes to the NCAA gambling landscape came from Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. When asked to describe his feelings on the matter, Bowlsby admitted “I didn’t have that in my notes, largely because I didn’t have anything intelligent to say about it. I think we’re very much in a wait-and-see environment right now.”

As the head of another very popular conference, however, Bowlsby did throw out some thoughts on integrity fees and the movement in general.

“There’s a lot of talk about integrity fees. There is a lot of talk about how it gets managed. Are we really going to end up with 50 states that all have different laws on legalized gambling?”

Finally, keeping in line with Sankey and Swofford, Bowlsby weighed in on injury reports and why his conference in particular had decided not to provide them as of yet.

“We haven’t chosen to do it because we want to get some answers relative to the student records. My sense is that there’s going to be a human cry for that to happen, and as long as we don’t get too far into the specifics of what the injury is and what kind of medication they may be taking, some sort of simple system may work.”

The NCAA has also launched a study into sports betting hoping to find "how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”

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