The College Football season is now in full swing. In the Big Ten, several teams have their eye on a National Championship, including the Ohio State Buckeyes.
However, with excitement building around the games, more and more attention is being drawn to the issue of sports betting among student-athletes. That’s where US Integrity comes into play.
The sports betting monitoring company has entered a partnership with the Big Ten Conference to enhance monitoring capabilities to help prevent student-athletes, coaches and staff from taking part in any prohibited sports wagering.
How deal between Big Ten & US Integrity will work
US Integrity has partnered with multiple NCAA conferences, including the Big Ten. This allows the tech company to keep tabs on sports betting activity related to college sports. US Integrity will surveil Big Ten games for sports betting irregularities. This will also help identify any irregular contest-level, officiating and wagering patterns.
Since the launch of Ohio Sports Betting at the beginning of the year, we haven’t heard of any true ‘sports wagering scandal’ amongst any of Ohio’s Division I schools. However, we do know that betting is going on among college-age students.
Even though there haven’t been scandals involving student-athletes, this could help regulators spot any potential foul play. The Ohio Casino Control Commission has already fined operators $1.29 million since launch. In other words, the Buckeye State takes sports betting regulations seriously.
The goal is to assure the NCAA, conferences, teams, players, bettors and the public at large that the expansion of sports betting isn’t impacting the legitimacy of the games. The hope is also to decrease the number of bets being placed by student-athletes, staff and coaches.
In a Big Ten press release, Commissioner Tony Petitti said:
“The well-being of our students, coaches, and staff, as well as the integrity of our competitions are of paramount importance. Enhanced transparency through availability reporting and partnering with US Integrity strengthens our efforts to protect those who participate in our games as well as the integrity of the games themselves. I’m grateful for the collaboration of our schools, coaches, and administrators.”
According to a study by the National Council on Problem Gambling, about 67% of all college students bet on sports in some capacity. That’s a huge number, given that 21 is the legal sports betting age in all but four states that have launched online wagering. Researchers also estimate that 75% of college students gambled during the past year, whether legally or illegally.
Earlier this year, 15 student-athletes and two student managers associated with Iowa college athletics were charged in connection to an investigation into unlawful sports betting. Iowa State starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers was included in that group.
Big Ten availability report
In addition to this deal with US Integrity, the Big Ten also announced a gameday student-athlete availability report for all football games during the 2023 season. It will function similarly to the NFL’s injury report. Before scheduled kickoff times, Big Ten schools will tell the league which players will and will not be taking in that day’s game.
For example, suppose Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord gets injured during practice and is unlikely to start, and that information somehow gets leaked to a bettor. In that case, that person might place a large wager on the Buckeyes to not cover the spread or stay under the game’s over/under point total.
According to a press release, Big Ten institutions are responsible for submitting gameday availability reports prior to every contest this season. That information must be submitted by schools no later than two hours before scheduled kickoff times to the conference office and distributed on BigTen.org/FBReports and @B1GFootball on X (formerly Twitter). Any breach of the gameday reporting policy will be subject to disciplinary action under the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy.
Are teams already finding loopholes in this rule?
We must take this news with a grain of salt. Things change all the time in sports, in particular in college football. Many believed that both McCord and Devin Brown would see a lot of playing time in their first game against the Indiana Hoosiers. However, McCord received the bulk of the snaps in that game.
Let’s look at a team the Buckeyes will see down the road. In Minnesota’s opening game against Nebraska, the Golden Gophers No. 1 wideout Chris Autman-Bell started the game. However, he was only on the field for one snap.
When asked about it, Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck told the Pioneer Press: “It was based on how he felt. It’s all based on how he feels. We are going to listen to our players; we always do. We will listen to our trainers. And those two have to be in line.”
Autman-Bell suffered a significant knee injury early last season. Fleck says he is still recovering from that injury. But he is getting closer and closer every minute and hopes Autman-Bell will be 100 percent really soon.
So, in the case of Ohio State, one player didn’t play as much as expected. That’s understandable, given that it was a backup quarterback situation. However, the Minnesota deal is something that can’t be ignored. Minnesota was a seven-point favorite in that game against Nebraska, and they did not cover. What if someone knew that the Gophers’ top wideout would only play one snap? They could have easily concluded that Minnesota would have a tough time covering the spread in that game.
The Big Ten will need to monitor situations like these moving forward if their goal is to protect the student-athletes.