The University of Cincinnati this week became the latest college athletic program with a sports betting controversy, as the university announced Wednesday that it had fired a pair of assistant baseball coaches on May 17. The university shared that it began an investigation into “potential NCAA infractions” on May 8, and the two assistants were fired based on initial findings.
FOX 19 reported that the two Cincinnati baseball coaches knew of a player’s parent wagering on games, and they failed to report the violation to the athletic department or NCAA, which led to their dismissal.
“I’m really interested if the facts ever come out, because that’s going to put coaches in very tough times, if you have to monitor parents to go with the transfer portal and everything else,” a former NCAA compliance officer told Sports Handle.
Cincinnati’s athletic department declined to comment further on its internal investigation, as the investigation is ongoing. The Ohio Casino Control Commission, which regulates sports betting in the state, told Sports Handle it is aware of the firings, but that Cincinnati’s baseball team is not under investigation by the OCCC.
Coach Scott Googins’ future job status at Cincinnati is uncertain, according to FOX 19. It’s unclear the extent of his knowledge about the wagering situation. The baseball program just wrapped up a disappointing 2023 campaign and will move into the Big 12 next season.
The sports betting connected to dismissed University of Alabama baseball head coach Brad Bohannon drew scrutiny from the OCCC, as Bohannon was reported to be in communication with a bettor as the bettor wagered against the Crimson Tide from an Ohio retail sportsbook. At both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, meanwhile, allegations that student-athletes have been involved in prohibited sports wagering are under investigation.
NCAA policy on reporting violations
The NCAA says staff members who are aware of an NCAA violation and fail to report it are committing an infraction.
“Generally speaking, NCAA rules indicate that member schools are obligated to report violations if/when they are aware of them,” an NCAA spokesperson told Sports Handle.
The former NCAA compliance officer told Sports Handle the NCAA would likely be most concerned about coaches and administrators not reporting violations, especially as it relates to the activity of parents.
“I don’t know if the NCAA would really expect a student-athlete to turn their parents in, and that’s really any case, accepting benefits or what not,” the former compliance officer said.
The NCAA is clear in its sports betting policies that student-athletes and coaches can’t wager on the type of sports in which the NCAA sponsors a championship. That means placing a wager on sports like football, basketball, and baseball — whether with a mobile sports betting app or bookie — is against NCAA policy and can lead to penalties, including suspensions.
Virginia Tech linebacker Alan Tisdale was suspended six games in the 2022 season for betting on NBA playoff games. Tisdale’s suspension was initially a nine-game suspension before being reduced on appeal.
Additionally, student-athletes, coaches, support staff, and others are prohibited from sharing information with bettors. For example, if a coach knows a player will miss an upcoming game but they have yet to share that news publicly, they’re not supposed to share the information with someone for the purposes of placing a sports bet.
NCAA rules surrounding wagering on sports aren’t expected to change in the immediate future, as loosening them apparently lacks widespread support across NCAA member schools and conferences.
“I would side on continuing to have very strict and punitive NCAA bylaws,” Mountain West Commissioner Gloria Nevarez told the Associated Press this month. “Because what is the upside to allowing sports wagering? Go bet the ponies. Go play blackjack.”
A new wave of violations?
The Alabama, Iowa, Iowa State, and Virginia Tech situations involve investigations into clear violations of NCAA wagering rules. Either players bet in violation of NCAA rules or a coach shared information with a bettor, according to the reports.
Cincinnati’s situation highlights that not only should coaches and players avoid placing wagers in violation of NCAA rules, but they’re also under scrutiny when it comes to reporting betting infractions.
The Cincinnati case still lacks significant detail, but according to FOX 19’s report, the assistant coaches weren’t impacting the competitive integrity of games. The parental aspect of the story adds an intriguing wrinkle that could set NCAA precedent.
“Everybody kind of knows the NCAA ‘Don’t bet on it’ slogan,” the former compliance officer said. “It’s always plastered around facilities, but I don’t know how much, if any, education parents get on it. … I know there’s a big debate of whether or not to change the policy in general for students and coaches. It’s really interesting if they’re gonna start scooping up parents into this.”