The NCAA Takes On Sports Betting



After yesterday’s frivolity, it’s time for something different…

For years, sports gambling was as welcome a topic at an NCAA gathering as Beelzebub.  NCAA support was important in the original creation and passage of PASPA and no sports entity was more fervent than the NCAA in defending PASPA until the Supreme Court figuratively called a technical foul on PASPA for being unconstitutional.  The NCAA was also a primary motive force behind a bill introduced by then-Senator John McCain in 2001 that would have banned wagering on collegiate sports everywhere including Nevada; that bill never got a floor vote in the Congress.  Now, the NCAA has tried to plant its pivot foot and change directions – – so to speak.  Here is what Dr. Mark Emmert had to say at a recent NCAA convocation:

“Sports wagering is going to have a dramatic impact on everything we do in college sports; it’s going to threaten the integrity of college sports in many ways unless we are willing to act boldly and strongly.”

I’ll give Dr. Emmert points for recognizing reality.  However, if there were ever a human institution with a lesser history of “acting boldly and strongly” than the NCAA, it does not come quickly to mind.  FIFA and the IOC might be candidates here…  So, what does the leader of the NCAA consider bold and strong action?  Be sure you are sitting down as you read this; I don’t want to shock you into a fugue state.  The NCAA is going to form a new group- within the NCAA structure whose mission will be to figure out:

  • “… how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”

If there were a Richter Scale for boldness and strength, this would register at about 0.2.  Even when sports betting was illegal in just about every State in the Union, wouldn’t you think the NCAA would have some sort of internal entity paying attention to all those issues?  Did game integrity and expansion of educational efforts become important issues only after the Supreme court struck down PASPA?  Bull-cookies!

  • Memo to Dr. Emmert:
  • You and your minions in Indianapolis need not expend a lot of effort on “monitoring betting activity”.  The sportsbooks that take the wagers are doing it for you and have done it despite you for decades.
  • The fact that you list as two separate items things like “monitor betting activity” and “protecting game integrity” indicates clearly that you do not understand that those two things go hand-in-hand. By monitoring betting activity, you will gain insight as to threats to the integrity of your games.

Let me short-circuit some of the rhetorical posturing here.  If you held a referendum asking who favored “pure competition” versus “corrupted game outcomes”, I think “pure competition” would be the clear winner.  The NCAA has demonstrated over the 109 years of its existence that it is neither a “nimble” nor an “agile” organization.  The NCAA is ill-equipped to be the focal point for a massive data stream that may or may not contain information regarding “game integrity”.  If there is a role for college athletic departments in this matter outside the efforts of the sportsbooks themselves who will act quickly for their own financial benefit, then the most logical place to look is elsewhere in the colleges and universities that abut the athletic departments.  If schools think that the NCAA in Indianapolis is their first line of defense against point-shaving/game-fixing, they need to recognize that the NCAA equivalent to the Maginot Line in this battle.  When they get pronouncements and guidance from Indianapolis, it should come with this warning:

  • Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…

For the record, last year’s NCAA Tournament created a handle of approximately $300M in Nevada.  This year, 8 states will offer wagering on the 67 games in the tournament.  I saw one estimate that said this year’s total handle in the US will be $750M.  That is a lot of cheese to attract and tempt some rats – – and the NCAA is not the house cat I want to protect my cheese.

Switching gears…  One of the NFL free agent signings that drew attention was Landon Collins leaving the Giants and signing on with the Skins.  He got a big contract number so that he and his agent can bask in the glory of that total contract value even though he has only a minuscule chance of ever seeing all that money.  However, that chatter paled into insignificance in the DC area sports radio orbit the minute that Landon Collins said that his childhood hero was Sean Taylor and that he would like to wear Taylor’s number “21” when he took the field as a Skin.  You might have thought that Collins had suggested putting aluminum siding on the Lincoln Memorial.

Let me summarize a few of the general reactions that callers had to Landon Collins’ statement:

  1. Sean Taylor was the greatest safety in the history of the NFL.  Landon Collins cannot carry his jockstrap.  How dare he suggest that he should wear #21.  [Sean Taylor was a big-hitting headhunter of a safety who gave up loads of yards when he went for the “big hit” and missed.]
  2. Landon Collins is a nice player, but he never won anything with the Giants.  Maybe if he takes the Skins to the Super Bowl, he might be worthy to wear #21.  [Sean Taylor played 3.5 seasons for the Skins.  I must have been in a coma the year Taylor’s team made it to the Super Bowl.]
  3. Hundreds of Skins’ fans at every game wear #21 with Taylor’s name on it.  It would be confusing and insulting to those fans who are there to honor Taylor’s memory.  [Anyone confused by such a situation is dumb enough to believe that “bacteria” are the rear door entrances to cafeterias.]

Finally, I got an email recently from #2 son with a fun fact he ran across regarding the Washington Federals of the old USFL:

“In 1984, the Federals offered free T-shirts to the first 10,000 fans through the turnstiles for a game against the Oklahoma Outlaws. Only 6,075 showed up.”

Those shirts may be collectables today.  Unless they were all shipped off to West Africa the way the NFL gets rid of the shirts it makes up to honor as champions the losing teams in the Super Bowl.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………