Big Ten addressing gambling issue

Looking at education, standardized injury reporting

On May 14, in the case of Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal law banning states from legalizing sports gambling was unconstitutional. 

Since then, a handful of states have passed legislation legalizing betting on sports, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, both home to Big Ten universities. Several other Big Ten states, including Indiana, could follow suit in the coming months or years.

Even if progress is slower on that front than expected, having some schools already playing in states that have legalized it has brought the issue to the forefront of discussion in the league.

Nearly every speaker at Big Ten Media Days, including conference commissioner Jim Delaney, was asked to address the issue of legalized sports gambling and how they believe it would affect college sports with football season kicking off in five weeks. Each coach, as well as Delaney, had their own take on the subject, but two major themes emerged over the two-day event in Chicago: creating a standardized player availability report and educating the players on the new challenges they could face in an environment in which gambling is no longer under the table.

The player availability report is an idea that's gained traction in recent months as a way to ensure that players and team personnel don't unknowingly give prospective gamblers a leg up by revealing which players will or will not be available for a game. Indiana head coach Tom Allen pointed out that determining which players are available is central to deciding which side has an advantage in a given matchup.

“To me, the injury part is a big deal,” said Allen, who is entering his second season with the Hoosiers. “That's why the NFL puts a lot of time into it and has strict guidelines for that and I'm sure those guidelines will filter down to collegiate football. Once they do, we've gotta make sure it's a system that we as coaches follow and nobody has a competitive advantage over another program.”

The NFL has a byzantine injury report policy, which mandates its teams release a report before three practices during the week, as well as before games. The game reports require players to be listed as “out”, “doubtful” or “questionable,” as well as the body part that has caused the player to land on the list.

At the college level, there is currently no such uniform report and coaches are permitted to make as much or as little information public as they want. In the Big Ten, preferences differ widely, with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald providing a version of a weekly injury report and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh going so far as to withhold providing a depth chart until days before last season began. 

Even Fitzgerald, however, admits that he isn't always accurate with his weekly injury reports and that requiring a standardized version of the report could be beneficial.

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