Big 10 Hires U.S. Integrity To Provide Gambling Education

Written By Darren Cooper on August 29, 2023
Big 10 has hired a firm to provide education to students on sports betting.

No Iowa university is offering a major in responsible gambling just yet, but it may not be a bad idea.

With the betting scandal in Iowa as an obvious catalyst, the Big 10 conference (which, at last check actually had 14 teams, with more on the way) announced a partnership with U.S. Integrity, a company that monitors sporting events for improper gambling activities.

This is a positive first step for Iowa and the Big 10. U.S. Integrity promises to provide educational resources for student-athletes, coaches, and staff to learn the rules – and punishments – involved in sports gambling.

The Big 10 also announced it will make football programs provide an “availability report” to the conference two hours before kickoff and these reports will be posted on social media. The idea is to publicize information that may only be known by a few, like athletes and coaches. An availability report is akin to the injury report in the NFL. What’s different is that it will not provide reasons why players aren’t playing. It will list only whether a player is available to play.

Education is key to making Iowa scandal a one-off affair

With nearly 20 sportsbooks serving the Iowa online sports betting market, there’s temptation for student-athletes at Iowa colleges to wager on sports. That could change with athletes at both Iowa and Iowa State seeing their NCAA eligibility affected for violating NCAA rules on gambling. By the last count, 11 current and former student-athletes have been implicated so far.

If college is all about higher education, perhaps it’s time for colleges to learn the lessons the scandal has provided. Hiring U.S. Integrity is a step in the right direction for Big 10 schools.

The NCAA does not permit athletes to gamble on any college sports. But as sports betting explodes all over America, student-athletes may not be totally aware of the rules. Coaches like Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz are. He recently suggested increasing education efforts on gambling at Big 10 Media Day. Ferentz said it’s a whole new world out there. He’s right. It’s time for colleges and the NCAA to catch up.

Education on gambling starts at home

Gambling has been a taboo subject in the past. Betting on sports is no different. There’s very little institutional knowledge being passed down from generation to generation unless maybe you grew up in Las Vegas.

Like us all, student-athletes have been inundated with ads for Caesars, FanDuel, and DraftKings everywhere they looked. They may have even thought that they possess inside knowledge on a game or a team that could give them a winning advantage. Online sites make it so easy to bet on a few games.

It does not seem from any of the reports that the athletes at Iowa or Iowa State had set up a major gambling ring or knowingly altered the outcome of an event they were playing in. They just used their phones to make bets.

It should become part of a coach’s pitch to parents during the recruiting process that gambling needs to be discussed. If the parents are unfamiliar with the rules – and in their defense, most of these rules are new – then they need to become informed.

Education is supposed to be a partnership between schools and parents.

Iowa looks to add new rules amid the scandal

Creating new betting rules after the scandal surfaced is like shutting the barn doors after the cows have escaped, but Iowa is trying to adjust to the new reality.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission said last week it is going to ask that Iowa sports betting operators display signage saying that sharing accounts is prohibited. This is apparently in response to betting activities by the Iowa and Iowa State student-athletes who allegedly logged into other people’s accounts (mainly family members’ accounts) and bet that way.

Another thing the IRGC wants displayed and enforced is the 21 age limit on betting.

Sports betting remains a worthwhile endeavor that provides excitement and fun when done responsibly and through regulated operators. Just like in football, basketball, and baseball, there are rules that must be followed. It’s imperative that officials clearly spell out those rules to students, athletes, parents, and coaches.

The Big 10’s decision to hire U.S. Integrity is a move in that direction.

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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022. 

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