Big 12 In Wait And See Mode On Gambling, Transfers and Likeness Issues

Big 12 In Wait And See Mode On Gambling, Transfers and Likeness Issues

FRISCO, Texas — Changes in the college football landscape, including the opening of gambling in several states and a move toward the opening of transfers between schools, mean changes for conferences as well. Speaking at the opening of Big 12 media days, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby noted that the league is in something of a holding pattern as it reacts to some of the noteworthy occurrences of the offseason.

“We’ll have to keep watching,” he said of the conference’s current status in watching the gambling situation unfold. “What if some states in our footprint have it and some don’t? What if some states allow it in the pros but others allow college or high school? It’s taking a while to settle in.”

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby

The biggest concern initially in this area is the potential effects of point shaving. Bowlsby did interject that “the biggest losers in the legalization of college sports betting is organized crime”, but there still has to be concern over one-off manipulators in a process that is not well-understood by many. Bowlsby mentioned the prevalence of gambling in overseas pro sports (“In the EPL you can bet at a kiosk right next to where you buy a hot dog”) and undoubtedly the Big 12 is trying to learn lessons from areas where betting is already entrenched. It will try to ramp up enforcement efforts, and already has some measures in place to monitor potential problems.

“We have a consulting firm service that looks at unusual line moves,” Bowlsby noted, while also pointing out that the anticipated gambling windfall won’t help fund much in the way of education or prevention.

“I think West Virginia gets a quarter of one percent,” Bowlsby said in reference to the fee that is supposed to go to schools from wagers in the state. “Say West Virginia  gets $100 million dollars bet on a game, they are going to gets $250,000. You can’t even run a gambling education program on $250,000.”

Still, Bowlsby admits there is a lot of money to be made in the system, and that remains a concern for school presidents and athletic directors, who have to prevent the corrupting influences that can result. With the gambling just getting up and running in a couple of states, however, he offers no predictions.

“I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”

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A similar status holds for college athletes being able to profit from their likenesses. An earlier court ruling on this action — known as the O’Bannon case — would have allowed players to do that, but that part of the decision was overturned by an appeals court, and the results of further appeals, as well as another case are still pending. That should decide the issue — at least in theory.  A decision is not expected until at least the fall, however, so the conference remains circling the airport waiting for a place to land.

Bowlsby deferred any opinions on that issue, noting that legal decision must be made in the case before schools, or conferences, can begin to put together a framework on how to manage payments that are allowed. One thought is that any money will be held in trust until the player exhausts his eligibility or leaves school, so as to prevent unintended consequences of having some players receiving more than others while still in college.

Completing the trio of issues is the the question of whether or not the league will restrict transfers between teams in the league. This came about as a result of the NCAA Division I Council’s notification of transfer rules, which take effect on October 15, and establish a national database where players wishing to transfer can make their intentions known to all schools, eliminating the process of getting permission to speak to other institutions.

One additional proposal would have allowed open transfers to any other school, but it does still allow conferences to establish their own rules that could limit transfers between members.

“We’re talking a little bit about an interconference transfer rule, and generally speaking fences make good neighbors,” said Bowlsby, hinting at which direction the league might take. “We’ll see how that plays out.”

Bowlsby didn’t want to offer odds on what the ten conference members might decide.

“Obvi0usly that’s not something the conference commissioner does. That’s what the athletic directors and faculty reps will decide. What they will choose to do I don’t know, but we’ve teed up the issue. We haven’t really done a whole lot with it because we didn’t know what the transfer working group was going to do. Now it looks like they are going to sit still for a while. We have an AD meeting on the 13th and 14th of August, and that item is on the agenda.”

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