For years, sports bettors have called for college football teams to adopt standard injury reports. While the NFL has specific rules surrounding mandatory injury reports, college football programs aren’t required to share them.
But Louisiana State University head coach Brian Kelly plans to openly share injury updates this fall, telling media members he’ll designate injured LSU players as probable, questionable, doubtful, or out every Monday and Thursday. On game days, he’ll specify whether a player is available prior to kickoff.
Part of Kelly’s desire to issue an injury report comes from recent college sports betting scandals. In addition to Iowa and Iowa State players wagering on various sporting events, including their own team’s games, former Alabama baseball head coach Brad Bohannon lost his job this spring for allegedly sharing injury information with a bettor.
Bohannon reportedly tipped the bettor off that the Crimson Tide’s projected starting pitcher was unavailable for the team’s April 28 game against LSU due to injury. Bohannon was fired and the incident is still under investigation by regulatory bodies and the NCAA.
Unscrupulous bettors might pester or even bribe coaches, athletes, or equipment managers for inside information related to injuries. Kelly’s decision helps alleviate that concern from within the LSU program.
“I wanted to be proactive and not reactive,” Kelly said.
Will others follow?
LSU plays in arguably the toughest division in football, the SEC West, and the Tigers have the fifth-shortest national title odds of any team on FanDuel. Kelly, the former head coach at Notre Dame, is one of the best-known helmsmen in the sport.
Given Kelly’s name and the program’s stature, LSU’s actions may reinvigorate a discussion among coaches about sharing injury reports.
“I think it definitely sets a tone,” Brendan Bussmann, managing partner of B Global and a member of Nebraska’s football staff from 1996-2003, told Sports Handle.
Bussmann, who is well connected across college football, says he’s heard from coaches who are now considering offering injury reports following Kelly’s decision. Bussmann called LSU’s injury report releases “forward thinking” and believes there’s value for other programs to do the same.
“Are there going to be some times it maybe puts [Kelly and LSU] at a disadvantage if the other team doesn’t do that? There’s the potential of that,” Bussmann said. “But to the same extent, in today’s day and age, being as transparent as you can be within the parameters of HIPAA and other things is probably the way to go.”
Similar to Kelly, Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz provides a weekly injury report. He said at the SEC spring meetings that he likes the NFL’s requirement and would support college injury report standardization.
“I think that we need to put those safeguards in place,” Drinkwitz said.
In the eyes of some coaches, however, there’s upside in staying quiet about a starting quarterback’s injury status if it means the opposing team has to spend the week of preparation guessing as to which signal-caller they’ll face. Other coaches are supportive of the idea of injury reports, but they likely won’t implement the protocol in their program unless the rest of their conference follows suit.
“If everybody’s giving an injury report, that’s not a problem,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart told The Tennessean in the spring. “They do it in the NFL. I was in the NFL; that’s not a huge deal as long as it’s level. But a lot of the issues that are created in college sports today are based on the imbalance.”
Haven’t seen this at #LSU before, but Brian Kelly is taking a new approach to injury questions.
— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) August 1, 2023
No conferences currently mandate injury reports, but the Pac-12 reportedly considered a league-wide injury report this offseason. The Pac-12 hasn’t shared any information about the topic ahead of the football season, and a conference spokesperson didn’t immediately return Sports Handle’s request for comment.
Penalties for sharing inside information
The NCAA recently updated some of its sports betting rules, crafting a punishment policy that’s more lenient toward athletes who violate NCAA wagering rules than it has been in past years. For example, Virginia Tech linebacker Alan Tisdale missed six games in 2022 for betting on NBA games. Under the new rules, Tisdale’s suspension may have only been one game.
The rules are not lenient, however, for athletes who wager on their own sport or their own school. Punishments also aren’t kind to those sharing inside information with bettors. Players who do that can permanently lose eligibility.
In Kelly’s eyes, whatever competitive advantage is gained by keeping injuries private isn’t worth the risk of players or coaches being contacted for inside information.
“I don’t want it to be a situation where somebody loses their job or somebody loses eligibility,” Kelly said. “To me, that’s a bigger issue than, ‘Well, we got a tactical advantage today because we found out he was playing.’”
Kelly even went as far as saying he wishes he released official injury reports sooner.
“It probably took me too long to come to this realization,” he said.