There’s a difference between acceptance and embrace.
We accept the things we cannot control, like your paint-chipped 1982 Toyota SR5 truck that just got crapped on, ironically, by a mourning dove, the impact of which caused the already low-riding POS to collapse entirely and send two wheels rolling down the street like convicts escaping supermax.
But we embrace things that could make life better or easier, like you watching the wheels flee, the truck helplessly laying in the driveway like Leonardo DiCaprio hanging on to the edge of a floating door post-Titanic sinking because “there was no room for him” next to Kate Winslet, and you realizing it might be time for a new car.
When it comes to legalized sports betting, the NCAA has accepted the fate of its literal crappy truck, but the association will not embrace the change.
Last week the NCAA announced it would be “examining the long-term impact” of regulated wagering on college sports by piecing together an “internal team of subject matter experts” that will explore “how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”
It may seem as though the NCAA is embracing change, but in reality, it is the introvert cowering in the corner at a house party when it should be assisting with the keg stand.
‘Subject matter experts’
In a press release last week, the NCAA said it will construct a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess “all areas where legalized sports wagering may impact NCAA members, including officiating, NCAA rules, federal or state legislation, and the use of integrity services.”
“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer, said in the release. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”
Also quoted in the release was Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances:
“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering. With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”
What’s the best way to assist members? How about having actual “subject matter experts” weigh in? You know, people who have been around the industry long enough to remember the last time the NCAA made a decision that was praised by the court of public opinion. (Whenever that was; instituting the shot clock?)
You see, in Las Vegas, maintaining integrity of games is standard. It’s why we don’t open Twitter to see #PointShaving or #WellDangIfYouJustPaidTheAthletesTheyWouldntAcceptBribesJustToFeedThemselves on a daily basis and why light has been shed on the point-shaving scandals that did take place.
We can assume the NCAA is not reaching out to Sin City, or to anyone with actual expertise, as the committee is dubbed by the association as an “internal team.”
Especially considering legalized sports betting will only spike the NCAA’s stock — in popularity and revenue — it would have been more beneficial to the association to embrace the industry rather than skirt around it.
Stepping in the right direction
In a way, perhaps we should applaud the NCAA for making such a decision. Maybe not an over-the-top, “Her-cu-les-Her-cu-les” celebration; more like that patronizing clap as made famous by Captain Picard.
Consider that the NCAA has been stuck in the first stage of the five stages of grief (denial) for years, decades, ever. It was part of the team that took New Jersey to court to maintain the federal ban on sports betting. It battled — albeit briefly — for integrity fees after the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA and opened the door for state-by-state legalized wagering.
Now the NCAA has backed off from its integrity fee position. It cut down its rule that barred states with legalized wagering to host championship events. This committee at least shows the NCAA is accepting this new world. The problem is it should have embraced it like Tommy Boy.