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Volume 25 No. 64

Colleges

If more states adopt legalized sports betting, the NCAA would greatly limited in the places it could stage events
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

There is "new hope" that NCAA championship events can come to Las Vegas after the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting, according to Mark Anderson of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. UNLV AD Desiree Reed-Francois is "being proactive," having moved quickly following the ruling to "discuss with the Mountain West how to bring such events to Las Vegas." Former UNLV AD Jim Livengood has been working to change the NCAA policy, and though he said that he liked the chances of that happening, he "cautioned there are steps that still need to be taken." If more states adopt legalized sports betting, the current NCAA prohibition would be "difficult to enforce because it would greatly limit the places the organization could stage championship events" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/15). In Raleigh, Steve Wiseman notes the NCAA has been "steadfastly against legal and illegal sports betting." The NCAA website has a section "dedicated to sports wagering and it's 'Don't Bet On It' campaign." The NCAA has "refused to hold championship events, most notably NCAA basketball tournament games, in Nevada" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/15).

NOTHING BUT NET: THE ATHLETIC's Seth Davis writes the Supreme Court's decision is an "especially important victory for college basketball," as the sport has "monumental challenges garnering the public's attention during the regular season." While every sport could "always use more eyeballs to generate more dollars, college basketball is more in need of a jolt." The NCAA Tournament "remains a strong television property, but like the rest of the marketplace, it has been fighting sagging ratings." The introduction of "widespread legalized gambling will help" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/15). CBS SPORTS' Matt Norlander wrote NCAA Tournament brackets "beget gambling, which begets interest, which is compounded when more people are casually allowed to log picks on their phones or make bets at a local window" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/14). However, Big Ten coaches and ADs said that they "couldn't speculate on whether lawful gambling would draw more attention to college basketball during the regular season." Northwestern AD Jim Phillips: "Would it increase eyes of viewership and attendance at games? I don't know if I could make that correlation." Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles: "How can it enhance the interest in our game? I'm not sure" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15).

PREFER TO STAY OUT OF IT: San Diego State Univ. AD J.D. Wicker said the school would "prefer to be excluded from gambling." However, he said if officials "choose to include amateur athletics, we'd like to leverage some of those dollars to benefit student-athletes, whether it's insurance benefits or expanding medical coverage through more athletic trainers -- those types of things." Wicker: "If it happens, we'll obviously have to step up from a compliance standpoint" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/15). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes in the longer term, everyone in college and pro sports is "going to have to reckon with legalized gambling." Regulated and taxed, it is a "revenue stream that should long ago have been tapped for the public's benefit instead of driven underground." The mechanics of how to do that, and the "role the NCAA and the pro sports leagues will play, remain undefined" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/15). 

The NCAA has partnered with sports data company Genius Sports as a part of an initiative to transform the digital collection and distribution of intercollegiate sports data that will benefit more than 1,100 member institutions across all three divisions and will be used in select NCAA championships, starting with the men's and women's basketball tournaments in '19. The technology will subsequently be rolled out to schools for other NCAA sports, including volleyball, football, soccer and softball (NCAA). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Eric Fisher notes the 10-year deal marks the NCAA's "first national-level deal in this area." The partnership will "involve the collection of game data" and the "licensing and distribution of that data for various clients including media partners." The Genius Sports data platform "will then be offered to individual member schools at no cost for an introductory period, and remain recommended by the NCAA after that." The Genius Sports deal "arrives after a nearly two-year internal review by the NCAA into its data operations." NCAA statistics had been "handled and sold to third parties such as outside media entities primarily through a disparate series of conference and school-level alignments with various providers, most notably CBS Sports Digital’s StatCrew Software." Some entities "will retain relationships with StatCrew." Financial terms were "not disclosed." But the pact was "described as being centered heavily around revenue sharing between the NCAA and Genius Sports of funds generated through the distribution of the collegiate data" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/14 issue).

Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said the Big 12 has had "some discussions with the Big East about the possibility of doing a scheduling alliance to counterbalance the SEC Challenge so that we would have 20 games locked up," according to Alex Halsted of CBSSPORTS.com. Pollard said other basketball leagues are "considering going to 20 games, so if a couple leagues go to 20 games, it’ll be harder to get a non-conference home and home." Halsted noted the Big 12/SEC Challenge will enter its sixth year in '18-19, and in some sense is "viewed by the league as one yearly locked-in high-major opponent." The addition of some sort of Big East scheduling would "take the Big 12 to the aforementioned 20-game number that other conferences are aiming for." There is "no timetable for when such an alliance between the Big 12 and Big East could begin," though '19-20 appears to be the "earliest with most schedules already locked in" for the '18-19 season. Agreements with the SEC and Big East would get each Big 12 program to a "guaranteed 20 high-major opponents including conference games with holiday tournaments and other scheduling available to increase that number" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/14). Kansas Special Assistant to the AD Larry Keating said of the discussions with the Big East, "It’s certainly worth looking into." He added, "I’ve talked to a couple of people about the issue of 20 games and it becoming more and more difficult for some schools to get games. With the Big Ten and ACC going to 20 and others talking about it as well, it’s something worth looking at" (K.C. STAR, 5/15).

Williams (r) did not share an estimated cost or completion date for the master plan
Photo: CARLA WILLIAMS

Virginia AD Carla Williams "outlined a 'master plan' for infrastructure upgrades" that includes "construction of the football structure and demolition/replacement of University Hall, the crumbling former basketball arena that houses offices and locker rooms for 10 sports," according to David Teel of the Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS. However, the University Hall project "must wait 9-12 months for workers to remove quarantined asbestos in the facility, meaning about 60 staffers will be moved to portable offices in an adjacent parking lot." Williams "did not share an estimated cost or completion date for the master plan." Rather, she is "focused on ticket revenue and fundraising." Both are "challenging given football’s struggles," as UVA "averaged 39,398 spectators last season for seven games at 61,500-seat Scott Stadium." To "recruit better requires better facilities." Williams spoke of the "efficiencies that added space and technology would provide the football staff" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 5/12).

POSITIVE START: Williams said there is "probably more to come at some point" from the Commission on College Basketball's recommendation for reform, but she added it is a "good step in the right direction." Williams: "I believe in the collegiate model. I love education. At the same time, I want student-athletes to benefit. I want student-athletes to get as much as they can as long as it doesn't take away from the educational experience." Williams: "I'm willing to talk about all of that, if there's a way to do that where it doesn't crush the educational opportunities for so many" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 5/13).

WAHOOS ON THE GRIDIRON: In DC, Gene Wang noted Williams spoke "almost exclusively about her efforts to return football to prominence via several avenues, most notably fundraising, facilities and ticket sales." Williams said, “It didn’t take me very long to start to realize that we’ve got a structural problem in football. We’re understaffed in some areas. Obviously we’ve got some facilities issues in some areas. Our budget isn’t where it needs to be, so all of those things need to change to have a consistently competitive football program” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/12).