The NCAA’s longtime anti-gambling stance hasn’t prohibited Colorado from signing a partnership agreement with a sports betting company.
Colorado said Tuesday that it has signed an ad deal with PointsBet, a company headquartered in the state. Sports betting is legal in Colorado and the school said that it was the first major Division I school to sign an ad deal with a sports betting company.
“The five-year deal provides a financial boost for CU Athletics during a time when athletic department budgets nationwide are stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” a Colorado statement said. “The arrangement includes specific support for the department's Scripps Leadership and Career Development Program, which helps prepare student-athletes for success beyond their playing days.”
Colorado is a member of the Pac-12, one of two Power Five conferences that postponed its fall sports seasons in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The Pac-12 recently announced a deal with a company to provide rapid COVID-19 testing kits to all of its member schools as the conference looks to restart its sports seasons as soon as it can. However, due to a number of factors, including state and local regulations, there is no official timetable for when football and other sports could begin.
Sports betting legal in 18 states
Colorado is one of 18 states (plus the District of Columbia) where sports betting is legal. And while states are now free to legalize sports betting, the NCAA’s stance against betting on college sports hasn’t changed. That’s what makes Colorado’s deal with PointsBet — a company that offers customers the opportunity to bet on college sports — so significant.
"We're thrilled to have PointsBet as a partner and for the benefits this sponsorship will provide for our student-athletes for years to come," Colorado athletic director Rick George said. "We are impressed with their commitment to raising awareness around responsible gaming. And we're particularly excited whenever we can partner with sponsors who call Colorado home."
George’s comments in that Colorado statement are a stark contrast to what Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said in Senate testimony in July. Lyke said in her remarks that the entire ACC opposed gambling on college sports and even went so far to say that sports wagering would “ultimately undermine the integrity” of college sports.
I know I speak for all athletic directors when I say that we strive to foster academically, athletically and personally life-changing opportunities for our student-athletes and enable student-athletes to excel after their collegiate careers. While sports wagering might create revenue opportunities for states, it will ultimately undermine the integrity of intercollegiate sports and the academic, personal and social experiences of students and student-athletes at our institutions.”
Colorado’s ad deal sure seems unlikely to undermine the integrity of college sports. And if it helps save jobs and sports within the Colorado athletic department, it’s certainly worth it. But it’s also a sign that college athletic administrators may not be as united against the idea of sports betting and sports betting promotion as Lyke made it seem in her remarks in July. Especially when there’s money to be made from advertising deals in states where betting is legal.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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