Iowa’s Ferentz Calls For Improved Education In Face Of Gambling Scandal

Written By Darren Cooper on August 4, 2023
Iowa football coach says more education on gambling needed at colleges.

Iowa University head football coach Kirk Ferentz is approaching the ongoing illegal gambling probe of student athletes at Iowa and Iowa State true to form. He sees illegal gambling as an opponent that needs a game plan to beat it. He spoke about it at Big 10 Media Day on July 26 before players were named and charged this week.

“Gambling is going to exist. It always has. I hope eventually the policies will reflect what’s best for college athletics. Certainly not betting on college athletics would be a good starting point.”

Ferentz is calling on the NCAA to improve its education process concerning players betting on sports.

Seven player-athletes have been criminally charged

Iowa online sports betting is legal in Iowa through regulated sportsbooks. Unlike some other states, betting on college sports is allowed in The Hawkeye State.

The NCAA, however, prohibits student-athletes from making sports bets.

The state has unfortunately become the hot story with the investigation focused on two of its universities. It also leads to the question, what’s next for Iowa after the betting scandal?

This week, three current and former Hawkeyes who allegedly wagered on sports were criminally charged with tampering with records in an effort to hide their identities when placing bets. Current football player Aaron Blom, former baseball player Gehrig Christensen and former basketball player Ahron Ulis are accused of creating the illusion that other people were making the wagers.

Blom allegedly made bets when he was under the age of 21, which is illegal in Iowa.

Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers, teammate Dodge Sauser, wrestler Paniro Johnson and former Cyclone and current Denver Broncos player Eyioma Uwazurike are accused of betting on ISU events, which is a major violation of NCAA rules. All four have also been criminally charged with tampering with records in the investigation.

These are the players named in the investigation so far. More could be named in the future. In May when the investigation was announced, authorities said the probe included 26 student-athletes and one Iowa athletic department official.

Ferentz says more education needed from schools and NCAA

College athletics as a whole is in a precarious state. There’s conference realignment, players shifting schools through the transfer portal and controversies around name, image and likeness rules. Players making illegal bets is another iceberg.

Ferentz recognizes how much has changed with college sports.

“I think our world’s changed dramatically. Anybody who does pay attention to gambling knows that better than I, certainly the last couple of years. We live in a real different world right now.”

Ferentz has been the Hawkeyes coach since 1999 and is the highest paid state employee, making just under $5.5 million a year. He is the longest-tenured FBS coach in the nation, so he has witnessed a lot of changes first-hand.

Ferentz said schools and the NCAA have not done a great job of educating student-athletes on their policies and the potential punishments.

“I’m hopeful this is an opportunity with the NCAA to maybe reconsider two things: What the punishments or penalties might be that are, I would say, fair and relevant to the world we’re living in right now. And then probably the bigger thing is there’s an opportunity right now, I think, for better education process, if you will.”

It will be interesting to see if his views have changed at all after the players were charged this week, including one from his football team.

NCAA has changed punishments for gambling

The NCAA has reduced the penalties related to illegal sports gambling. Student-athletes who bet on their sport, but not their team, can face a loss of 50% of their season. For student-athletes who bet on sports they don’t play, the penalty is based on the amount wagered.

Bets $200 or less mean the student-athlete must attend sports betting education classes. For bets up to $500, the NCAA considers up to a 10% loss of a season. For bets up to $800, it’s a 20% forfeiture of the season. Anything over $800, 30% or more of a loss of the season will be considered.

More education is the solution, Ferentz said.

“It’s not going away. It’s going to continue to grow. Certainly, we want to educate our players and kind of compare it to maybe marijuana policies, those types of things.”

Since mid-July, US Integrity has begun student-athlete education seminars on NCAA sports betting policies at most SEC and Big 12 campuses.

Photo by Darron Cummings/AP Photo
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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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