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NCAA rules contain a trap And it differs from what you believe | Toppmeyer


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    MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. – Few actions result in a college athlete getting banned from NCAA sports.

    Arrested on a felony charge, take performance-enhancing drugs or cheat on an exam? There’s a path back from that.

    Bet $750 on the Nuggets to win the NBA Finals? That could land a college athlete in scalding-hot water.

    Amid the debate on an eight- or nine-game SEC schedule and never-ending discussion about how to erect NIL guardrails, there's another top-of-mind topic for coaches and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey at SEC spring meetings: gambling.

    Sports betting has become increasingly prominent and visible since the Supreme Court in 2018 lifted restrictions that had banned sports wagers in most states. Used to be, if you wanted to bet on sports, you needed to visit Las Vegas or consult your local bookie.

    Now, Vermont is poised to become the 38th state with legal sports wagering. Betting is as convenient as loading a phone app.

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    A few clicks on a device can upend athlete’s career, although I’m not sure how many athletes realize the severity of NCAA rules. Bylaw 10.4 lays out the penalty in strict terms:

    “Prospective or enrolled student-athletes found in violation of (sports wagering rules) shall be ineligible for further intercollegiate competition, subject to appeal to the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for restoration of eligibility.”

    The NCAA has levels of leniency for reinstatement. Small wagers on games not involving the athlete's institution offer a quicker path to reinstatement.

    Even so, here's the simple PSA for college athletes: If you’re thinking about betting on sports – whether it be amateur, college, professional sports – don’t.

    Coaches and other athletics personnel are also prohibited from sports wagering. Fired Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon can attest to how a sports betting scandal can wreck a career.

    Elsewhere, sports betting investigations put athletes or athletics personnel at Iowa, Iowa State and Cincinnati in the crosshairs.

    “It’s something that’s concerning and something that we as coaches and as universities and as a conference better be on top of,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said.

    Many coaches and athletic departments bring in speakers and provide educational material on the hazard of sports betting for college athletes and personnel.

    Amid that education, every coach and athletics director should explain the upshot in no uncertain terms: Sports wagering is about the most foolish thing a college athlete can do for their career.

    Once education occurs, individual accountability kicks in.

    NCAA rules prohibit sports betting on any sport, at any level, for which the association sponsors a championship. For example, because the NCAA sponsors basketball championships, betting on the NBA is prohibited.

    Providing proprietary info to people who are placing bets or associated with gambling also violates NCAA rules. In other words, if the left tackle knows his team’s quarterback won’t play Saturday because of an ankle injury, he can’t provide that hot tip to his biology lab partner to aid his betting strategy.

    Should the NCAA's rules on sports wagering be loosened?

    "I don't think that's a direction that we want to head," Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said.

    If a college athlete craves a few hands at a blackjack table, no issue there. Place your bets. But, avoid those March Madness pools.

    I’m not here to say these NCAA rules are fair, considering society’s pivot to more broadly welcome sports wagering. Frankly, NCAA rules come off as outdated and overly severe.

    A college athlete betting on their team’s games threatens the sport’s integrity, does what does a college football player betting on Japanese baseball threaten?

    While these NCAA rules may fall short in fairness, they score points for a lack of ambiguity.

    It’s there in black and white: Betting on sports can result in a most severe penalty.

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    I understand the temptations.

    State legislatures that legalized sports wagering brought the temptations to athletes’ doorstep. Warning athletes they can’t wager on sports is akin to hiring a renowned chef and telling them they can’t sample the product that has customers lined up for a table.

    You can’t watch a sports game, listen to sports-talk radio or scroll social media without seeing some sportsbook’s advertisement. Those make sports betting seem fun, easy and profitable.

    As Sankey put it, sports betting has become “enculturated” in society.

    “We talk to our players every year about it, but certainly I think we need to do a better job educating,” Beamer said, “because it’s not 20 years ago where you walked into a casino in Las Vegas and that’s how you placed a bet. You can place it from your phone right now.”

    And young adults are trying their luck.

    Opinion Diagnostics recently surveyed more than 3,500 individuals aged 18 to 22. Respondents may have included current or former college athletes, although whether a respondent was an athlete is not specified in the data.

    Still, survey results indicate how popular sports betting is with young adults.

    Among all respondents, 58% reported having participated in at least one sports wager. The percentage of betters increased among college students compared to non-enrolled young adults, and the amount wagered also increased among the college crowd.

    Most wagers among all respondents were for less than $50, but 5.8% reported losing at least $500 in a single day.

    And, anyway, a $50 bet is enough to land a college athlete on the wrong side of NCAA rules. The temptations are plentiful, but the risk of engaging remains severe.

    Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.

    If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Also, check out his podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or access exclusive columns via the SEC Unfiltered.

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