The NCAA is historically opposed to legal sports betting. And it’s a litigant in the US Supreme Court case trying to stop legal New Jersey sports betting.
So it’s not much of a leap to figure out what the collegiate organization likely thinks about the possible proliferation of sports betting around the US. Still, it’s been mum on the subject publicly of late. The only hint of how colleges might react comes from a group of collegiate athletic directors.
But testimony from the University of Connecticut gives us some of our first insights into how colleges around the country might react to an expansion of US sports betting.
A college on sports betting
A recent legislative hearing about the possibility of gaming expansions in the state included talk of and testimony regarding Connecticut sports betting. (It also came near the start of March Madness.)
One of the pieces of testimony came from Neal Eskin, a senior associate athletic director at UConn.
Eskin reiterated the standard talking points that the NCAA “opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering” and “believes sports gaming undermines the integrity of the sport and also jeopardizes the health and welfare” of student-athletes.”
But what does UConn think?
…we acknowledge that the introduction of legalized wagering on intercollegiate sports may add undue pressure and inﬂuence to this vulnerable population.
More proximately, Connecticut appears to be worried that legal wagering in the state could mean it will be banned from hosting NCAA championship events:
What we also know to be true under the current NCAA Championship policy is that the University of Connecticut and all other Division I, II, and III institutions in the state would be prohibited from hosting any round of the NCAA Championships should sports wagering be permitted.
Where does that fear come from? The NCAA won’t hold events in Nevada — because of the presence of Nevada sports betting. That also appears to translate to a de facto ban in New Jersey because of its efforts to legalize wagering.
Still, lots of other states have started attempting to legalize sports gambling, too. It’s increasingly unlikely the NCAA could ban sports betting in all of those states. The list currently includes Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Mississippi.
The state doesn’t commonly host lots of “championship-level” events. However, UConn’s women’s basketball team hosts early-round NCAA tournament games almost every year. There are also several other events in the state in upcoming years that Eskin pointed out.
NCAA will ‘re-assess?’
What will the NCAA do if it loses its case in the Supreme Court? More from Eskin on what may happen if the federal ban — PASPA — goes away.
It seems to us that the NCAA will have to re-assess their position should it be repealed, but we do not know at this point what that would look like. The path forward could range from the status quo, a championship policy that only considers amateur sports betting as a factor in hosting tournament play, or to a complete repeal of the policy.
It’s also at least feasible the school ran its testimony by the NCAA before submitting it.
So we still don’t know exactly what the NCAA will do. But we do have some insight into what its member schools are concerned about.