NCAA President Urges Reforms in Sports Betting Policies

On November 9, 2023, NCAA President Charlie Baker acknowledged the benefits of sports betting on college sports, noting that it has increased engagement in lesser-watched athletics. However, Baker emphasized the need for reforms to protect student-athletes.

Baker, who previously served as the governor of Massachusetts and signed the state’s sports betting bill into law, has embraced legal sports betting in college sports. Despite the financial benefits it has brought to the NCAA and athletics departments, Baker is concerned about player proposition bets, where bettors wager on individual outcomes such as a player missing their first two free throws. He worries that such bets could open the door for individuals to influence games for personal gain.

Certain states permit college player props, but Baker is focused on safeguarding players from outside interests seeking to fix or throw a game. He believes that prop bets present concerning dangers to players and is advocating for sportsbooks and state legislators to implement reforms to protect student-athletes.

One of Baker’s proposed reforms is the creation of a “prohibited bettors list” to keep track of individuals with a history of harassing players or team officials. Such a list would help prevent individuals from influencing games for their own benefit.

The integrity of college sports is also being called into question with the ongoing scandal surrounding the Michigan Wolverines football program. The program is under scrutiny for allegedly stealing signs of their opponents, leading to possible disciplinary action from the Big Ten.

Amid this controversy, Michigan responded by asserting that the conference lacks the authority to penalize Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh under the sportsmanship policy, cautioning the conference in its review of the allegations. The letter from Michigan also raised concerns about in-person scouting and collusion among opponents that may be more prevalent than believed.

In light of these challenges, Baker and the NCAA are working to address the issue of sports betting in college sports and ensure the protection of student-athletes.