Scottsdale, Ariz. ( Associated Press) — The NCAA’s stance against gambling on the sport by its athletes and those working in college athletics is summarized by the slogan on posters the association provides to its member schools: “Don’t bet on it” “
The rules have been clear for decades, part of baseline guidance for half a million amateur athletes. But now that sports betting is legal in more than half the states and millions of people flocking to the once feared professional sports league, college conventions are also looking for ways to capitalize.
Mid-American was the first to jump into the conference, licensing its data and the rights to statistics to a company called Genius Sports, which would in turn sell it to Sportsbook.
Expect others to follow, but with additional revenue will come more responsibility. And at a time of sweeping changes to college sports, with athletes now able to make money on their fame and the viability and necessity of the NCAA in question, legalized and easily accessible gambling represents more new territory to navigate.
While the NCAA does not stand in the way of these types of business deals, actual sports betting is a violation for those involved in college sports.
“They were able to first turn to the other side and say, ‘Oh, this is all happening here.’ But second you are getting paid directly from sports betting, it also comes with some responsibilities,” said Matthew Holt of US Integrity, a company that works with professional sports leagues and college conventions to monitor gambling irregularities. Is.
Holt said college sports are uniquely ripe for potential scandals due to a lack of transparency when it comes to player availability, the explosion of endorsement deals for athletes tied to boosters, and inevitably for unpaid players. Has the ability to easily place bets on himself.
Holt said regulated sports betting in the United States is on track to take in $125 billion this year.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament raised $20 billion in bets this year, Holt said, and more money is put on average college football on Saturdays than on a typical NFL Sunday.
While all major professional sports leagues have financial agreements with online sportsbooks, college conferences have been slow to get into the game. MAC Commissioner John Steinbrecher said the changing reality is impossible to ignore.
“What we’ve done is, really, bring the game out of the dark corners and put sunshine on it and have more transparency on that. Even more eyes on that. It’s a positive, it’s not a negative,” he said. .
With the help of Geniuses this coming season, those Weeknight Macs could be more attractive to football game gamblers than ever before.
Mack and Genius declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal. Navigate, a Chicago-based firm that conducts research and data analysis for professional sports leagues and college conferences, estimated that legal sports betting settlements could cost between $1 million and $1.5 million per year.
Using publicly available information on legal sports betting and data licensing agreements entered into by professional sports leagues, Navigate estimated that the Southeastern Conference could earn $15 million to $20 million annually with a deal similar to Mack.
Estimates range between $13 million and $15 million for the Big Ten, and between $5 million and $10 million for the other Power Five conferences.
Genius, which is based in London, provides a layer of security for its partners, including the NFL, through data analysis and relationships with SportsBooks, said Sean Conroy, Genius Sports’ vice president for North America.
Conroy said the NFL’s partnership with the Geniuses was integral to disclosing information that led to Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley being suspended by the league for betting on NFL games.
At conference meetings held earlier this month in Arizona, Holt warned athletic directors and league officials in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 about differences between college and pro sports, which could expose the college to corruption. make more sensitive.
First, college conventions do not require teams and coaches to disclose injury status and the availability of players for games. In contrast, the NFL issues injury reports three times per week.
Holt said that by hiding injury information, a college coach is inadvertently making those in the know — from training staff to team managers to players — aim to take bribes to gain bets.
“So I think the collegiate space, if they’re going to open up this category for revenue and monetization, they have to take the responsibility of taking it a step further in injury information and availability reporting,” Holt said.
Second, college athletes are now allowed to earn money for endorsement deals, Holt said, adding that there should be a limit to the amount of money individuals bet on athletes, which they are also paying.
“Let’s say you have Tommy’s used car shop, which pays $100,000 per year and a zero (deal) in the name of the university,” Holt said. “Well, the owner of Tommy’s used car shop shouldn’t be able to bet on that university. It’s a conflict of interest. They have a direct impact on the player.”
Holt said pro leagues do a good job of identifying “people with influence” and banning them with sportsbooks.
Third, and perhaps most problematic, is the ease with which athletes can bet on themselves. Many online sportsbooks allow users to place prop bets, betting on individual performance in a particular game. Can the quarterback throw at least three touchdown passes? Will the point guard reach six assists?
Rather than being paid to influence the final score of a game, as has been the case in point-shaving scandals involving athletes at schools such as Boston College, Toledo, and San Diego, athletes can simply manipulate their own stats. .
Even with growing zero opportunities for college athletes, the vast majority are making modest sums of — if any — money.
“And it’s easier for the fixer to approach those players because they don’t have to ask the player to fix the match,” Holt said. “Hey, not only do we hope your team wins, we hope you play great. Just don’t make nine rebounds.”
Holt said that along with advocating for American integrity, three states have made individual player bets on college sporting events illegal.
“The other 30 said, ‘Thanks for the wonderful info, Matt, but DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesar, who have big lobbyists, wanted it and they won,'” Holt said.
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