Legal sports betting dominates news headlines and many sports conversations these days. Most herald the US Supreme Court’s recent decision as a good thing.
Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, however, has a different take.
During the Big Ten annual media day, the normally vocal coach seemed a little quieter than usual, except on one topic – sports betting.
Unlike other coaches, Harbaugh didn’t have an opening statement prepared. Instead, he went straight into answering questions about what a successful Michigan season before the topic turned to sports betting.
Harbaugh had a thing or two to say.
The issue of player availability reports came up. Unheard of at the collegiate level, Harbaugh said, “Want to do an injury report? We can do an injury report.”
It wasn’t long after that for Harbaugh to take a more direct line on sports betting, telling players:
“Don’t gamble. Don’t associate with gamblers. Avoid it like the plague. Don’t walk away from that, run.”
For someone who is a master at answering questions without really answering the question, such an emphatic response certainly caught people’s attention.
College athletes and money have a complicated relationship thanks to NCAA rules. The advice from Harbaugh might have been shocking to hear, but it shouldn’t be entirely disregarded.
Does sports betting have a place in college sports?
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would like to see sports betting be confined to professional sports and exclude college sports and lower through federal legislation.
If college sports are included, Delany said:
“There [must] be some standardization of a framework so that college sports, high school sports, Olympic sports, those categories of sports receive some additional protection.”
As mentioned, player availability reports are one piece of the standardization puzzle.
“I’m a huge advocate,” Delany said. “I’d love to be able to see who is going to be able to play and not play. I think that creates different game-planning. It gives you a better advantage. But you’re also giving somebody an advantage, so it’s an equal playing field. I think teams have the right to know that.”
Delany said player availability has the most impact on legal sports betting outside of home-field advantage.
Not all the coaches supported Delany’s position, however. Nebraska head coach, Scott Frost said he would only provide player availability reports if forced to do so.
Player education is on the agenda
One of the newer members of the Big Ten conference, Rutgers, is located in New Jersey. It was New Jersey’s case against the NCAA and the major sports league that ultimately opened the door for legalized sports betting across the US.
Chris Ash, Rutgers’ head coach, is a proponent of education around sports betting. It is important to have conversations around the game fixing and point shaving to get ahead of any potential conflict. Ash said:
“It’s not only the players, but it’s your coaches, your support staff and everybody involved in the program. You have to continue to educate what are the potential pitfalls and issues that could come up surrounding it, and make sure that they make the right decisions.”
Delany is supportive of an education initiative. He also spoke about the trust required now that sports betting is on the horizon. At the end of the day, schools must trust the players to respect and understand “the importance of the integrity of the game.”