Sports betting is expanding across the U.S. Now, the NCAA has concerns that college athletes will begin accepting bribes en masse.
For many years, the NCAA made its position clear:
“The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.”
In his statement, he also mentioned the importance of preserving integrity in NCAA sports, adding that there is an incredible temptation for collegiate athletes to fall victim to the influence of unscrupulous bookmakers or gamblers.
NCAA athletes are young, but not dumb
These athletes are people in their late teens or early twenties. They subject themselves to mental and physical rigors for barely enough money to survive.
The NCAA demands this enforced poverty with an iron fist. Players are not even allowed to accept dinners from donors or boosters.
This stance from an organization (not member schools – the organization itself) that has annual revenues above $1 billion and added $103 million to its assets in 2017. Member schools reported revenues in excess of $9 billion in the same time period.
Collegiate athletes are not a dumb group of people. They can see the money flowing around them. They understand the flow is because of their efforts.
And yet, they are threatened with blacklisting for even dipping a toe in the flood. As an example, by and large, these violations are at the heart of the ongoing bribery scandal affecting players and coaches at more than 20 Division I schools.
The potential for bribery is because of NCAA policy
So, here comes sports betting, and the wringing of hands begins. Everyone can see how a large enough wager would open the door for someone to reach out to principals in the contest.
Is it likely that something like this will happen? Probably. It has happened about once per decade, and that was with one state able to wager legally.
The NCAA created the space for moral hazard with its ridiculous and greedy policies. Athletes generate tremendous revenues. Either their individual schools or the NCAA should pay them and thank them for their services.
The leagues are worried about their necessity, not integrity
However, don’t hold your breath on any sort of change on this front. In fact, the NCAA likely feels emboldened by its partial victory against Ed O’Bannon four years ago.
The more insulting concept floating right now is the faux-outrage that most of the major sports leagues, including the NCAA, are exhibiting about sports betting. They are not concerned about the integrity of their games – the fear is actually about their necessity to the sport.
Let’s be clear – the leagues and television networks have actively promoted gambling for decades. Newspapers have listed point spreads on games for many years. The entire industry of sports pundits and commentators gives its hot takes and inside information on a daily basis.
There is no other reason to publish an injury report. The NFL has mandated the release of that information since 1946.
Nowadays, the reports come faster than ever, and usually from some reporter standing in an empty stadium. And yet, coaches and administrators are shocked – SHOCKED – at the Big Ten‘s motion to create a similar rule on the college level. Suddenly, these people are citing HIPAA concerns about students and how “scary” it all is.
Ultimately, none of that information matters at all – unless you have a vested interest in the outcome of a particular contest. Then, it might matter if the star quarterback got dinged up the Tuesday before a game.
What truly frightens all of these organizations is the loss of their control, the loss of their necessity, and the loss of an incipient opportunity to make money. In the end, that’s what bothers the NCAA about these athletes making money.
After all, if the athletes are getting paid, why would they still need the NCAA?