NCAA Official Concerned with Prop Bets

Speaking at the Sports Betting USA 2020 online seminar, Naima Stevenson-Starks (l.), an official with the NCAA, voiced concern with proposition bets on individual performances at the collegiate level. Naima Stevenson-Starks favored restrictions on such bets to overcome suspicions of impropriety by student athletes.

Devyn Ford is a go-to running back for Penn State. In betting circle, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to have a proposition bet on how many yards Ford will carry the ball against Iowa November 21.

That has at least one executive with the NCAA concerned.

Speaking at the Sports Betting USA 2020 online seminar November 12, Naima Stevenson-Starks took issue with proposition bets on college players like Ford. Such wagers involve players reaching some type of goal designed by sportsbooks, such as how many touchdowns a quarterback will throw or how many tackles a linebacker will make.

Stevenson-Starks, the NCAA’s vice president for law, policy and governance, would like to see regulators restrict such bets to protect the integrity of the game.

“Unlike the professional leagues, we are now talking about student-athletes attending class with people who may be betting on their efforts on the field or the court,” Stevenson-Starks said. “That’s a concern.

The NFL expressed similar concern about prop bets on its own players a few years ago. But player props take on a much larger segment of the sports betting industry than in collegiate athletics.

A survey of leading U.S. sportsbooks found little in the way of college player props, although they were more readily available on unlicensed offshore sites that are beyond the reach of U.S. regulators. A spokeswoman for DraftKings said its college props usually involve which team scores first or last, and how many points a team will score.

The Colorado State-Boise State football game did not offer bets on any individual player. The Golden Nugget sports betting site also did not offer player props on that game. FanDuel also said its college props market is small.

New Jersey is in the process of removing its restrictions on college sports betting to allow wagers on New Jersey teams and all games played in the state.

The NCAA position found a welcome ear with Cathy Judd-Stein, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. She said the state will consider “the safety of amateur athletes to protect them against exploitation” in future sports betting legislation.

Meanwhile, as the college basketball season gears up for a November 25 start, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced it is in talks with Indianapolis to be the single host city of the entire 2021 men’s college basketball tournament. Early round games had been scheduled at 13 sites nationwide, but officials said moving the games to one location would help lower Covid-19 risks by offering safe and controlled environments at venues, practice facilities, lodging and medical resources. In addition, the Final Four already is scheduled for April 2021 in Indianapolis, the headquarters of the NCAA.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “The committee and staff have thoughtfully monitored the pandemic to develop potential contingency plans. The board of governors’ and my top priorities are to protect the health and well-being of college athletes while also maintaining their opportunity to compete at the highest level. These principles have guided the decision-making process as we continue to assess how to have a fair and safe championship experience.”

NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt added, “We have learned so much from monitoring other successful sporting events in the last several months, and it became clear it’s not feasible to manage this complex championship in so many different states with the challenges presented by the pandemic. However, we are developing a solid plan to present a safe, responsible and fantastic March Madness tournament unlike any other we’ve experienced.”

The women’s NCAA Tournament schedule remains in limbo. Since 2015, the first two rounds have been played on the home campuses of the top 16 seeds. Those will not be known until Selection Monday. The women’s Final Four will take place in San Antonio in March and the regionals supposedly will be played in Albany, New York, Austin, Texas, Cincinnati and Spokane, Washington.