NCAA Could Allow Student-Athletes to Bet on Sports

NCAA rules may soon change to allow student athletes and team personnel to participate in sports betting © Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The NCAA is considering allowing its student-athletes and team personnel to bet on sports despite being prohibited from doing so under the current regulations.

Mark Hicks, NCAA managing director of enforcement, said at the SBC Summit North America last week that the governing body of college sports is discussing the idea with leaders from each division. They are primarily concerned with establishing if a universal sports betting policy is necessary across all of Divisions I, II, and III.

The NCAA has been the victim of recent betting scandals involving its student-athletes, which makes its potential loosening of protocols the opposite of what many expected.

A two-part analysis

Hicks’ comments came on the second day of the conference on May 8. They were in response to moderator Paul Buck, CEO of EPIC Global Solutions, who questioned if the NCAA planned on instituting new protocols following the rise of various gambling issues, such as athletes betting on themselves and their teams.

Hicks responded that the NCAA is going over its current rules with a two-part approach. First, they want to discern if they are “in the right place” with regard to their application across all three divisions.

This comes from the difference in revenue, attention, and influence of Division I sports, particularly those in the power conferences, compared to those in Division II and Division III.

Lower-division games are also rarely outfitted with betting odds at major sportsbooks.

The second part of the NCAA’s internal review is into the possible loosening of sports betting rules for student-athletes.

“The second part of this year will be a discussion about should it be liberalized,” said Hicks. “Should student-athletes and athletic staff be allowed to bet on professional sports, college sports…whatever it is, that conversation will take place the rest of this year, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Major professional American sports leagues allow their athletes to bet on sports aside from their own. For example, an NFL player could bet on the NBA or MLB, but no NFL games they are or aren’t involved in.

NCAA’s sports betting policy still evolving

The NCAA last year loosened its punishment for athletes found guilty of breaching the sports betting policy. It instituted a tiered system of standards based on the amount of money an athlete was found to have wagered, with punishments ranging from the completion of an educational course to a permanent loss of eligibility if the athlete wagered a significant amount of money (earmarked by the NCAA as $800).

Despite this, the governing body of college sports has dealt with a variety of infractions and major scandals.

The most infamous in recent times involved an investigation into more than 100 student-athletes at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Several suspects had to appear in court but ultimately did not face punishment after it was found that the authorities illegally obtained certain pieces of evidence.

“There’s been a revision of our student-athlete eligibility rules related to gambling,” Hicks said. “What had been attempted was to separate more technical violations with those that may rub against an integrity concern, such as betting on your own school or betting on your own team, where the penalties will be much more significant. That has happened, and my guess is that conversation will continue as things happen in the NCAA.”

The NCAA has also been active on the regulatory front. President Charlie Baker issued a public statement encouraging state officials to remove college player props from the catalog of available bets to protect the athletes from harassment and college sports from nefarious interference.

Baker has also been in contact with state regulators, several of which already agreed and banned college player props.

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