Big Ten debates impact of legalized sports betting
Rosemont, Ill. — There might not be gambling windows at arenas and stadiums in Ann Arbor and East Lansing anytime soon, but a recent Supreme Court ruling on sports gambling is sure to change the landscape of college sports.
On Monday, the nation’s top court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a 1992 law that barred sports betting outside of Nevada, as well as three other states on a limited basis.
How that ruling will affect those involved in the games has been a topic of conversation this week at the Big Ten’s spring meetings.
“It’s a little premature to say what this will mean for all of us,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. “I think it’s fair to say it will change a number of things, but we’ll just have to see here over the coming months and years exactly what those changes look like.
“My primary concern and the thing that I think all of us will have to address first and foremost is just making sure that we protect the integrity of our games, and by extension, that we protect our student-athletes, our coaches, our staff.”
At this point, it’s a state issue and it might not directly impact every program in the Big Ten. Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter said he has heard sports gambling wouldn’t be approved in Indiana, but admitted he had no concrete information regarding the future of sports betting in that state.
One state that already has been working on the issue is New Jersey, home of Rutgers. That state could be up and running quickly, as it anticipated the court’s ruling.
It has coaches already thinking about how to discuss the matter with their players.
“We talk to them about gambling anyway and have those educational sessions every year,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “Now as we go into this uncharted territory, so to speak, we’ll have to be even more vigilant and be even more consistent in terms of our education of talking about it because it’s a little closer now depending on which states pick it up.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Michigan basketball coach John Beilein, who still was trying to process the decision made by the Court.
“I’m a little struck about it, I guess you could say, because that’s really surprising,” Beilein said. “The initial thought would be, we better do a tremendous job of educating the young men that we’re around because there’s going to be more people interested in betting on games.
“This is pretty serious but I think in educating the program, we’ve got to all step up.”
Whether every state adopts some form of sports betting remains to be seen. In Michigan, there are bills waiting to be debated in the state legislature and other states that Big Ten teams play in likely will be following the same path.
It’s something Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said many have seem coming.
“I think there’s a lot of work to be done collectively, not only in college sports but I think the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA — they’ve all been thinking about this,” Manuel said. “We have sort of looked at the possibilities of what could happen and the impact. We obviously want to protect the games, in particular the integrity of the games.”
Sports betting was only one issue discussed at the meetings, which concluded Tuesday. Manuel said there was discussion about long-term scheduling in both football and men’s basketball —including the move this season to 20 conference games — along with some discussion of the recent report from the Rice Commission, which was formed in the wake of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Commission made several recommendations, including eliminating the one-and-done rule, allowing players to return to school if undrafted and having greater transparency from shoe companies.
“I don’t want us to overreact and I don’t want us to underreact, but it is good,” Beilein said. “The change we’ve had over time in college basketball has been very positive. In the 10 years, 20 years, 30 years I’ve been involved — 40 years I’ve been involved — I’ve seen great positive change. It appears we’re in for some more.”
The commission didn’t delve into compensating players, but it has continued to be a hot topic. Some have pushed the idea players should be able to earn money of their own likeness, much like Olympic athletes can. Others ideas have also been discussed, like Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh talking about deferred compensation for players after their college careers are done.
Most at the meetings this week agree change is coming, but Manuel still believes firmly in the collegiate model while agreeing there should be some flexibility moving forward.
“I love the collegiate model,” Manuel said. “I’m not a proponent or an opponent at this time for any one thing. It’s something we should continue to look at. But I do not like the idea that students who participate in athletics are employees.
“We’re trying to win, but we want to educate young people to go into the world to be successful.”