“The Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee on Sports Wagering will examine the sports wagering landscape and its potential impact on current NCAA rules, educational efforts, player availability reporting, and any associated risks as more states legalize sports wagering,” the statement reads.
This follows the Association’s announcement in July that the national office is examining the long-term impact on college sports with an “internal team of subject matter experts,” with generally the same objectives.
This all follows the United States Supreme Court’s decision on May 14 in Murphy v NCAA, in which the high court struck down the 1992 federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering outside Nevada on Tenth Amendment principles. Since that time, the NCAA’s fellow respondents in the case, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Football League, and some of those leagues’ teams, have announced new partnerships with casinos, sportsbooks, and overall relaxed its rules regarding such deals.
What follows is a concise (hopefully) timeline of the evolution of the NCAA’s position on the expansion sports wagering.
NCAA Announces New Committee to Examine Sports Wagering Landscape in U.S., With Focus on Protecting and Educating Athletes, but Potential Policy Outcomes and Sponsorship Possibilities Not So Clear
We’ll note off the top that the newest statement says: “Current NCAA rules that prohibit sports wagering by student-athletes or athletics employees, including coaches and other individuals connected with athletics, remain in effect. Violations of any sports wagering rules remain subject to NCAA penalties.”
That’s been the policy all along — while Americans have wagered an estimated $150 billion through illegal bookies and sportsbooks operating offshore — outside the purview of state regulators and leagues.
March 2010: The NCAA put out a pamphlet (view here) on “Gambling on College Sports.” Two sections read:
“Does the NCAA really oppose the harmless small-dollar bracket office pool for the Men’s Final Four? Yes! Office pools of this nature are illegal in most states. The NCAA is aware of pools involving $100,000 or more in revenue. Worse yet, the NCAA has learned these types of pools are often the entry point for youth to begin gambling. Fans should enjoy following the tournament and filling out a bracket just for the fun of it, not on the amount of money they could possibly win.”
“Isn’t sports wagering harmless? No! Sports wagering can be a serious crime that threatens the well-being of student athletes and the integrity of the game. Financially troubled student-athletes are viewed by organized gambling as easy marks for obtaining inside information or affecting the outcome of a game. Student-athletes who gamble are breaking the law and jeopardizing their eligibility. The NCAA® believes sports should be appreciated for the benefits of participating or watching, not the amount of money that can be won or lost depending on the outcome of the games.”
September 27, 2017: NCAA athletic directors from power conferences met for an educational panel, “The Future of Sports Betting in the US: What It Means for College Sports.” The conversation was a precursor for the committee’s announcement today:
— LEAD1 (@lead1acom) September 26, 2017
Tough room, but honest discussion re: college sports & legal sports betting. Hope ADs are proactive, work with lawmakers for future needs https://t.co/KIZrNi13W3
— Joe Brennan Jr (@joebrennanjr) September 26, 2017
May 14, 2018: On the day of the Supreme Court decision, the NCAA announced a 10-year data partnership with Genius Sports.
“This digital transition comes at a time when data for all intercollegiate sports are increasingly important to our fans, our institutions and our partners,” Oliver Luck, executive vice president of regulatory affairs and strategic partnerships for the NCAA, said in the release. “This initiative will transform the way we collect, use, and distribute the vast amount of sports data being consumed across all sports at every level. It will allow our schools to upgrade to state-of-the-art technology.”
While the deal doesn’t address betting rights, according to ESPN, consider that the Genius Sports subsidiary Betgenius, a competitor of Sportradar, offers sports betting services to sportsbooks across Europe and the U.S. “Take your sportsbook to the next level,” the company says in its website. “Our range of innovative products and services can help excite your players, drive revenues and boost profit.”
So, go ahead and figure out what this deal is really about.
May 17, 2018: NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the Association’s position on sports wagering: It supports federal regulation. This comes after its long opposition to sports wagering.
“While we recognize the critical role of state governments, strong federal standards are necessary to safeguard the integrity of college sports and the athletes who play these games at all levels,” Emmert said.
Also at this time, the NCAA voted to allow its various sports championships to be conducted in states that allow sports wagering. This means that tournament championships are coming to Las Vegas. And given the number of new states legalizing sports wagering, the NCAA didn’t have much choice but to loosen its rules.
June 29, 2018: NCAA says no thanks to an “integrity fee,” and will leave that decision and integrity monitoring to individual schools and conferences.
According to USA Today, NCAA senior vice president and chief financial officer Kathleen McNeely told a group at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention that should sports wagering be regulated by states, individual schools can pursue an “integrity fee,” but the NCAA will not.
The NCAA also “will not be going after any gambling revenue. We know it will cost money to monitor, but (Association president) Mark Emmert has been pretty firm in saying he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for the NCAA to try to access that revenue,” McNeely was quoted as saying in the USA Today story. “Schools will need to look at their own values and decide” how to proceed.
July 19, 2018: NCAA announces that it is examining impact of sports wagering and is working to protect college athletes and competitions amid gambling expansion. The statement reads in part:
“While some have advocated that leagues or schools financially benefit from new state laws, including integrity fees levied on sports wagering revenues, the NCAA instead has decided to focus its attention on the substance of education, the protection of student-athletes and a standard approach to game integrity through consistent national guidelines.”
“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”
July 28, 2018: As the college football season nears, coaches and athletic directors indicate that some injury reporting policy/mandate will be coming soon.
At that time we wrote: Commissioners and athletic directors from the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12 so far have indicated that things are trending in that direction. ACC commissioner John Swofford views it as critically important and expects its implementation next year.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed specific issues in connection with injury reporting, such as, who’s in charge, what information must be disclosed, and whether there will be legal limits to what information teams and conferences may indicate on reports (HIPAA has come up frequently). Even Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, known for injury information gamesmanship, is on board. “If we want to do an injury report,” Harbaugh said, “we can do an injury report.”
August 7, 2018: Here are relevant sections from the minutes from the NCAA Board of Governors on the “Sports Wagering Update”:
“NCAA Senior Vice President of Championships Joni Comstock informed the Board of Governors that in an effort to examine the long term impact of legal sports wagering on college sports, an internal task force has been created to explore how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”
“Comstock noted that six focus areas have been identified:
- Integrity services;
- Information/data management;
- NCAA legislation and policy;
- Political landscape; and
Explaining why the NCAA and NFL appear aligned on their efforts and policy considerations on sports wagering, the Board of Governors adopted a resolution that reads in part:
WHEREAS the Board of Governors has suspended the NCAA championships policy related to sports wagering, the NCAA remains committed to protecting the integrity of college sports and is working with the NFL and other professional and amateur sports organizations to call on Congress to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting.
WHEREAS some have advocated that NCAA members financially benefit from new state laws, including integrity fees levied on sports wagering revenues, the NCAA chooses to focus its attention on education, the protection of student-athletes and staff, and a standard approach to game integrity through consistent national guidelines.
October 22, 2018: At a hearing on the possibility of legalizing sports wagering in Indiana, where the NCAA is headquartered, an NCAA representative spoke and addressed the NCAA’s interests.
The NCAA also submitted this written handout to the legislature. It aligns almost exactly with what the NFL has advocated, most notably at a congressional hearing on Sept. 27 before a House of Representatives subcommittee.
And now we have today’s announcement. When in doubt, form a committee? Our final thoughts:
- Prohibitions on players, trainers, coaches betting on games remain intact. If any attempt to violate such, they might now be going through legal, regulated channels … i.e. betting at sportsbooks that have a vested interest in protecting everyone involved, as opposed to offshore or with a local guy. Athletic directors can and should submit lists of names and driver’s licenses to licensed sportsbooks. Thus, a regulated market is not an increased threat, but a mechanism to further enhance betting integrity and integrity of games.
- Injury reporting is probably coming. The NCAA recognizes that inside information about injuries, and shady characters seeking such information, are probably the biggest threats. Athletic directors and coaches are already moving in the direction of mandating NFL-style injury reporting to curb the threat.
- The NCAA like the NFL, MLB and NHL will want to sell data and execute partnerships/sponsorships with casinos and sportsbooks. We’ve seen it already and the NBA and NHL have signaled/announced more are coming. This will be harder for the NCAA, which probably will keep a greater distance from such deals as the pro leagues, but it does explain the Genius Sports deal.
Perhaps the NCAA can consider paying players — many of whom spend full-time hours in their athletic programs — a stipend, or share some of the humongous revenue that television contracts garner. It might also consider allowing athletes to engage in sponsorships themselves.
Thus athletes would be less tempted to make a buck through illicit means. The NCAA’s policies that keep kids broke has been the impetus for that threat all along, whether it’s game fixing or taking cash and casinos chips from boosters or agents.
This is an opportunity now for the NCAA to look in the mirror and examine all its policies.