NCAA president: prop betting on college athletes ‘enormously problematic’

Charlie Baker
Charlie Baker

GLENDALE, Ariz. — NCAA President Charlie Baker has already been pushing for states with legal wagering to ban betting on individual performances for college athletes.

Yet he’s getting constant reminders of how pervasive it has become and how big of a challenge it will be to manage — even during the high point of a women’s Final Four featuring Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark that generated huge TV ratings.

“Did any of you notice how much time is spent on cable TV about Caitlin Clark’s prop performance in the first game, and leading into the second game?” Baker told reporters shortly before the NCAA men’s championship game between UConn and Purdue.

“Is that really what we should be talking about in the middle of a women’s Final Four?”

Baker had posted a statement on social media during the middle of March Madness expressing concerns about threats to the integrity of competition and harassment of athletes by bettors angry with their results. Shortly before the final game of the men’s basketball season, Baker called prop betting “enormously problematic” for college athletes and highlighted a successful push to get some states like Ohio, Vermont and Maryland to remove prop betting on college athletes online and in sports books.

He also noted there’s a long way to go to get a hold of the issue.

“We’re kind of in the top of the first inning on this one,” Baker said. “And I think it’s really important for us to recognize this is going to be a challenging issue. We really need to take seriously the fact that student-athletes are surrounded by a huge percentage of their classmates and schoolmates who bet on sports, which is a problem all by itself.”

Stories of athletes being harassed for betting-related issues popped up numerous times during the NCAA Tournament, such as from North Carolina big man Armando Bacot.

“I thought I played pretty good last game,” Bacot said before a Sweet 16 loss to Alabama. “But I looked at my DMs, and I got, like, over 100 messages from people telling me I sucked and stuff like that because I didn’t get enough rebounds.”

Baker said the NCAA has hired a company to do what he called surveillance work on social media “to chase stuff that’s directed at coaches and players and officials.”

“If they see anything they think is inappropriate, they notify the platform and ask them to shut those people down for the rest of the tournament,” Baker said. “And if they see stuff that they’re really worried about, they notify the authorities. And that’s happened in a few instances.”

Yet Baker dismissed concerns about the mixed message of the NCAA selecting gambling capital Las Vegas as host of the 2028 Final Four. He focused on how people have managed to defeat technology barriers to bet on sports even when it’s not legal in their states.

“For me, it’s less about where your events take place and a lot more about what you can do with technology and partners to policies — hopefully laws in some cases — to provide protection and support student-athletes,” Baker said, “because they’re the ones who get sort of mashed by a lot of this.”