NCAA pushing for ban of college player prop bets

Apr 7, 2024

March Madness has come down to the Final Four, with the Championship game just days away. The tournament has featured plenty of chaos and upsets which has made the tournament very difficult to predict. Millions of dollars have already been gambled on the tournament so far and plenty more will come in the final few games too. But one bet type that has come into the spotlight and been widely debated is the player prop market.

College athletes are prohibited from gambling on sports, including (of course) college sports. However, non-student-athletes in some states are allowed to bet on props connected to the performances of their fellow students. Many coaches and players have heard from fans who have bet on their props, oftentimes with negative reactions like jeers or insults. NCAA President Charlie Baker has been very outspoken about the topic, saying in November, “I think prop betting in some respects is one of the parts I worry about the most.” (The Athletic)

Baker’s push to ban college props intensified last week when he stated, “The NCAA is drawing the line on sports betting to protect student-athletes and to protect the integrity of the game – issues across the country these last several days show there is more work to be done… This week we will be contacting officials across the country in states that allow these bets and ask them to join Ohio, Vermont, Maryland and many others and remove college prop bets from all betting markets.”

Baker is worried about the experiences of student-athletes, plus the integrity of the game, and he’s not the only one. San Diego State men's basketball coach Brian Dutcher mentions that plenty of college athletes are dealing with backlash from the results of player prop bets and he’s worried that it will affect their mental health, "People complaining about how they're playing, missing shots, and they just get beat up constantly.” (CBC)

Although over three-quarters of the states have legalized some form of sports gambling, not every state has legalized player props in college sports. However, based on Baker’s intentions, it’s unlikely that more states will allow for the player props market in college sports. 

NCAA’s relationship with sports betting

The NCAA has had a rocky relationship with sports betting. In 2020, the University of Colorado became the first college to partner with a sportsbook. Shortly after, the University of Maryland, Michigan State University, and Louisiana State University did the same (Front Office Sports). It appeared that sports betting was slowly being integrated into college athletics, but it didn’t last long.

The American Gaming Association banned “sportsbooks from partnering with colleges to promote sports wagering, bar payments to college and amateur athletes for using their name, image or likeness…” (ESPN). That ruling closed the door on opportunities for colleges to partner with sportsbooks, and since then, there has been very little involvement between the NCAA and the sports betting industry.

History of sports betting scandals in college athletics 

Temple men's basketball games flagged for unusual activity

Earlier this college basketball season, the Temple men’s basketball team was placed under investigation due to “irregular betting patterns”, according to NBC News. After Temple’s game against Alabama-Birmingham, a gambling watchdog group named U.S. Integrity flagged the game for unusual activity and possible match-fixing. UAB opened as 2.5-point favorites, and shortly before tip-off, it had surged to become 8-point favorites. UAB went on to win by 28 points. Temple is also under investigation for 3 other games this season that involved irregular betting patterns.

Iowa and Iowa State football players under investigation

In 2023, over 40 players between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University were caught illegally gambling on sports - including games in which the players were actively involved. Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers was one notable name on the long list of players, having reportedly placed over 300 wagers illegally (Denver Post). Nearly all of the bets were placed before he was 21 years old, and dozens of them were on Iowa State-related games.

Another player involved in the scandal was Iowa kicker Aaron Blom, who was gambling illegally under his mother’s name. Some of the bets he made involved games he was actively participating in. Blom was ultimately charged in the gambling investigation and pleaded guilty, according to court filings.

Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon fired after gambling scandal

It’s not always just the players who have violated the NCAA’s gambling policy. Brad Bohannon, the coach of Alabama’s baseball team, was at the center of a gambling scandal in 2023. Before a regular season game between Alabama and LSU, Bohannon used inside knowledge of the game to try and place a $100,000 wager through an accomplice at a sportsbook (FOX News). However, the sportsbook was suspicious of the large wager and refused to accept the bet. Bohannon and his accomplice’s scheme was uncovered shortly after the game, and Bohannon was quickly fired. 

Sports betting among college students: Stats & Trends

The sports betting industry is growing by the day in the United States. More and more states have legalized some form of sports betting, leading to a wide range of people signing up for sportsbooks. However, one demographic has been the fastest growing by a wide margin - college kids. In a study done by the National Council on Problem Gambling, 3 out of 4 college students had gambled either legally or illegally in the past year.

It’s estimated that 2-3% of the American population battles a sports gambling addiction. Yet, college students are nearly double that at around 6% (The Conversation). The availability and accessibility of legal gambling have allowed the college student demographic to grow at a high rate. One out of 10 college students is now a pathological gambler, according to a study done by the University of Buffalo (Time). Experts are worried that the number will only increase in the coming years.

Sources:

Temple men’s basketball team played several games with unusual betting patterns - The Athletic

NCAA 'drawing the line' on sports betting, seeking ban on player prop wagers

University of Colorado, PointsBet Ink NCAA Betting Partnership

New marketing code will prohibit college betting partnerships - ESPN

Temple University reviewing reports of potential match-fixing of men's basketball game

Former Iowa kicker charged in gambling sting allegedly won a bet on the 2021 Iowa-Iowa State game

New details emerge in Alabama baseball gambling scandal involving ex-coach: report | Fox News

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