Worried about sports betting and 'integrity,' Big Ten wants mandated injury reports in college football

Dr. Saturday
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Regulated sports betting could cause a change in college football.

CBS reported Monday that the Big Ten wants the NCAA to look into establishing a national system for teams to disclose player injuries. It would require teams to submit a weekly report detailing the ailments of its players — something most coaches staunchly oppose.

Knowing fully how secretive most coaches are about injuries, the Big Ten’s athletic directors still went ahead and proposed the idea to the NCAA Football Oversight Committee last month after discussions at the league’s spring meetings in May, according to CBS.

How are sports betting and injury reports intertwined?

With the Supreme Court giving states the leeway to legalize wagering on sports as they see fit, college football decision makers are wondering how it will impact the sport.

Here’s how injury reporting enters the equation:

Unlike the NFL, where it is mandatory to disclose injuries, college football programs don’t have to tell anybody which players may or may not be able to suit up for a given game. If you were planning to place a bet on a game, though, you would certainly want to know if an impactful player was injured.

The status of a single player could have a dramatic impact on the point spread for a game. For example, if a team divulged that its star quarterback was injured during practice and would miss the upcoming game, the spread would move pretty drastically. That team, with its star QB expected to play, could be a four-point favorite when an initial line comes out early in the week. But if a team had to disclose the quarterback’s injury via a mandated report later in the week, the team could quickly become an underdog in that matchup.

The availability of that injury information would be a pretty big change from what we’re used to in college football.

Coaches won’t like this change

In college football, divulging information has always been up to the head coach, and many programs are, to put it lightly, cagey about revealing injury information. Coaches often lean on student privacy laws when explaining — justifying, really — why they won’t publicly address the status of a player’s health.

Above all else, though, it’s a competitive advantage.

If your team’s best running back tweaked an ankle in last week’s game and you know he won’t play, then why tell the public — and, obviously, your opponent — about it?

According to CBS, the Big Ten’s proposal “included input from coaches, presidents, ADs and faculty athletic representatives,” so the coach perspective was included in this. Still, it’d be naive to think there wouldn’t be pushback from coaches around the country.

Predictably, Big Ten administrators are hung up on “integrity”

As legalized betting regulations take shape in states across the country, college administrators worry that injury information — or the lack thereof — could jeopardize the integrity of the game.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said not divulging injuries is a form of “gamesmanship” and called for increased transparency.

From CBS:

The ADs claim an injury report is necessary to protect the integrity of the sport.

Such a move would alter one of the most ingrained and long-standing traditions in college football — coaches concealing injuries. From the earliest days of the sport, the decision to release such information has typically been made by the coaches themselves, sometimes flying in the face of fair play and transparency.

With the cross-country growth of sports betting in its infancy, it is becoming imperative that injury information be accurate and widely available.

Even though non-sanctioned forms of sports gambling have been around for decades, administrators — perhaps naively — are worried that making betting more accessible could lead to things like point shaving scandals. They’re worried about sharing insider information, too.

Changes to injury reporting are not imminent at this point

According to CBS, the NCAA Oversight Committee was “receptive” to the Big Ten’s proposal, but wants to have further discussion before any potential rule could come to fruition.

For the change to happen, the committee would have to adopt formal legislation and move it forward through the NCAA’s legislative process. Rule changes that have widespread backing can move quickly to approval. Other issues take much longer. It remains to be seen where the topic of injury reports will fall.

How does the NCAA view sports betting?

It’s kind of funny to consider the NCAA making decisions with gambling on unpaid amateur athletes as the backdrop, isn’t it?

The NCAA has long vehemently opposed sports betting to the extent it barred all championship events from taking place in Nevada, where betting been legal for decades. However, it changed its tune to an extent in May when the Supreme Court announced its ruling.

The NCAA’s official stance is now this: “To ensure integrity in sport, the NCAA supports a federal model addressing legalized gambling and has suspended its championship host policy related to sports wagering.”

NCAA president Mark Emmert added: “Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being. Sports wagering can adversely impact student-athletes and undermine the games they play.

“We are committed to ensuring that laws and regulations promote a safe and fair environment for the nearly half a million students who play college athletics. While we recognize the critical role of state governments, strong federal standards are necessary to safeguard the integrity of college sports and the athletes who play these games at all levels.”

Additionally, the NCAA made sure to re-establish its stance on sports wagering by those involved in collegiate athletics.

“The Board of Governors’ action does not impact NCAA rules that already prohibit sports wagering by student-athletes or member schools’ athletics employees, including coaches,” the NCAA said. “Violations of any sports wagering rules remain subject to NCAA penalties; however, the NCAA membership may reconsider appropriate consequences for those who legally bet on sports.”

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