The University of Alabama fired head baseball coach Brad Bohannon on Thursday, days after a sports betting controversy involving the program came to light. It was reported that “suspicious wagering activity” took place involving the team’s series with No. 1 LSU beginning on April 28.
“Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne announced he has initiated the termination process for head baseball coach Brad Bohannon for, among other things, violating the standards, duties, and responsibilities expected of university employees,” the university said in a statement.
Bohannon’s time as Alabama’s head coach is over, while the Crimson Tide (31-15) fight for a spot in the NCAA Tournament as the end of their regular season nears. Despite Bohannon’s firing, there’s still a lot we don’t know about his involvement in the sports betting controversy.
Here’s a closer look at what we do know.
What was the suspicious activity?
“Large” wagers were placed at the BetMGM Sportsbook at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Alabama’s April 28 game with No. 1 LSU, according to NOLA.com. ESPN reported that surveillance footage indicates the individual who placed the bets was communicating with Bohannon at the time, and The Action Network reported Friday that the bettor was a former high school baseball coach. It’s unclear exactly how the coach knew Bohannon.
It’s worth noting that not only was Alabama a notable underdog — LSU was roughly -250 on the moneyline — but the Crimson Tide also scratched projected starting pitcher Luke Holman shortly before first pitch. Hagan Banks started in his place, yielding four runs over three innings.
“Hagan Banks did a good job, especially for finding out an hour before the game that he was going to start. He went out and competed for three innings,” Bohannon said after the game.
Alabama still would have been an underdog with Holman starting, but he’s arguably the team’s most trusted pitcher. He tossed seven innings Thursday, limiting No. 5 Vanderbilt to just two runs in Alabama’s 11-2 victory. Holman is 6-2 on the season with a 3.08 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 52 ⅔ innings.
More details about Bohannon’s specific involvement will come out as the NCAA, SEC, Alabama, and the Ohio Casino Control Commission continue to investigate the situation. Both ESPN and D1Baseball reported that players are not suspected to be involved.
Couple important points re: Alabama baseball betting controversy:
–No student-athlete has been implicated. "No reason to believe any student-athletes are involved," source told @PeteThamel.
–There have not been any allegations that the game in question was manipulated.
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) May 4, 2023
How was the suspicious activity caught?
With legalized gambling spreading across the country, some fans have bemoaned the possibility that these incidents will become regular occurrences. While there’s no denying that players and coaches nationwide have easier access to sports betting platforms than a decade ago, the legalized market also comes with certain protections.
U.S. Integrity, which works with regulators, sportsbooks, and conferences like the SEC, helped flag the sports betting activity as suspicious. It’s possible the large size of the wagers on the college baseball game, a sport that typically draws minimal handle, caused suspicion. After an initial red flag, U.S. Integrity can alert sportsbooks and regulators to the abnormal activity as the parties begin to investigate further.
Further investigation led to Bohannon’s dismissal. Essentially, the integrity-monitoring services did their job.
There are those in the media trying to frame this story as a cautionary tale on the perils of legalized sports betting. In reality, it's a perfect example of one of the benefits of legal betting markets: they catch match fixing. https://t.co/AOsz0A54Nw
— Joe Sabin, Esq. (@sabo21) May 5, 2023
“Ensuring the integrity of athletic competition is our highest priority. … There must be zero tolerance for activity that puts into question the integrity of competition,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.
If the bettor used an offshore betting platform or a bookie, the unusual wagering activity may have gone undetected.
“While details are still coming out, events like this are indicators that the guardrails of the legal, regulated marketplace are working,” Cait DeBaun, the American Gaming Association’s vice president of strategic communications and responsibility, told Sports Handle. “Legal sportsbooks have robust compliance programs to actively monitor for anomalies and work with regulators and law enforcement to investigate any concerning activity. This only exists in the legal market. Competition integrity is central to the success of the sports betting ecosystem and is a top priority for both sportsbooks and leagues.”
Could Brad Bohannon go to jail?
The answer to the question of whether Bohannon could be incarcerated likely depends on the extent of his involvement with the wagering.
Did Bohannon share critical information used by a bettor in just one instance? How much money was wagered? Did Bohannon have a pattern of sharing important information with bettors? Was Bohannon orchestrating a wagering scheme?
Conspiracy to commit sports bribery can carry with it a potential penalty of imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of $250,000. A handful of former University of Toledo athletes faced a similar scandal nearly 20 years ago when they accepted payments from a pair of businessmen in an attempt to alter the outcomes of football and basketball games. The businessmen and players were indicted in 2009, but the athletes ultimately agreed to plea deals. They received fines and probation, but no jail time. The man leading the scheme, however, was sentenced to six years in prison.
Bohannon and/or the individual who wagered in Ohio may also face specific criminal sanctions in Ohio, Alabama, and Louisiana, depending on what additional details are uncovered in the case.
At the very least, Bohannon’s future college coaching prospects are in jeopardy. Not only is his reputation tarnished, but the NCAA, which has a zero tolerance policy for such behavior, could come down with a significant sanction against the coach.