WEEKLY FEATURE: Iowa Universities Face Sports Betting Scrutiny

In the latest college betting scandal, Iowa and Iowa State universities have been notified by various organizations that their student athletes may not have acted on the straight and narrow. Investigations will follow.

WEEKLY FEATURE: Iowa Universities Face Sports Betting Scrutiny

Iowa of all places. Home to the Field of Dreams, where a dead Shoeless Joe Jackson, in the form of Ray Liotta, walked out of a corn field with a dozen other dead players of old to rekindle memories playing baseball.

When Kevin Costner answered his dad’s inquiry where they were, Costner simply said “Iowa.”

Iowa, where 26 University of Iowa athletes in five sports are under suspicion of wagering on contests, which is a violation of NCAA rules, even though the bets were legal in the eyes of the law. More than 100 are linked to an investigation.

And don’t think you escaped unscathed, Iowa State. Some 15 of your athletes from the school’s football, wrestling and track teams are also under suspicion.

The investigations were announced almost a week after the University of Alabama fired its baseball coach, Brad Bohannon, in the wake of dubious bets in a Cincinnati sportsbook.

NCAA rules bar anyone associated with a school’s athletic program to wager on a sporting event—even the waterboy—if the NCAA conducts a championship in that sport. To wit: the NCAA oversees a football championship so…no one can bet on an NFL game. We know, not fair, but life isn’t fair.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission confirmed to the Action Network that it launched an investigation specifically into Hawkeyes baseball players’ suspected involvement in wagering.

“The commission takes the integrity of gaming in the state seriously and is continuing to monitor the situation and will provide any additional information when able,” Brian Ohorilko, the director of gaming for the commission, told the outlet. Ohorilko did not respond to phone and email messages from the Associated Press.

On a serious note, athletes caught gambling can lose their eligibility to play—and scholarships.

Iowa received information on 111 individuals, including 26 athletes from baseball, football, men’s basketball, men’s track and field and wrestling — as well as a full-time employee of the athletic department.The school received notice on May 2 of possible criminal conduct as well as NCAA violations.

According to the state Board of Regents, the bets were done online.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and have confidence that University administrators at each institution will take all necessary steps to ensure ongoing compliance,” the regents said.

Which sort of brings up Alabama—the Crimson Tide played LSU on April 28 and coach Brad Bohannon surprisingly scratched his starter prior to the game, which LSU won 8-6.

ESPN reported afterwards that surveillance video from the sportsbook at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati showed a person who placed bets spoke with Bohannon at the time.

The University of Iowa released the following statement:

“The University of Iowa and the Department of Athletics are aware of the sports wagering investigation and are fully cooperating. We have alerted the NCAA of the potential violations and we have hired outside counsel to assist in the investigative process. The athletics department provides education on NCAA rules regarding the prohibition of sports wagering as well as the potential consequences.”

Timeline of events

The University of Iowa outlined how it all unfolded.

  • May 2: Leadership was notified of potential criminal conduct related to sports betting that also suggested possible NCAA infractions.
  • May 3: Law enforcement notified the university that additional information would be provided the following day.
  • May 4: The university received a list of individuals that may have participated in sports betting.
  • May 5: The university notified student-athletes that they would be held out of upcoming games and events, alerted the NCAA, and engaged with outside legal counsel.
  • May 8: The university sent a message to athletics staffers and student athletes acknowledging the potential violations.

Meanwhile, Iowa State University also issued its own statement.

“Iowa State University and its Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is aware of online sports wagering allegations involving approximately 15 of our active student-athletes from the sports of football, wrestling, and track and field in violation of NCAA rules. The university has notified the NCAA and will take the appropriate actions to resolve these issues.”

Iowa regulators had previously acknowledged an ongoing sports betting investigation into student-athletes at Iowa regarding gambling related to baseball. Investigation aside, state regulators still offer wagering on Iowa college sports, Ohorilko said.

The NCAA would not comment on the matter when reached by LSR.

On3 Sports reported that four Iowa baseball players did not appear against Ohio State, including Keaton Anthony, who leads the team in multiple offensive categories. He had appeared in all 43 games for Iowa before being held out over the weekend.

So far, regulators have found no evidence of suspicious activity or match fixing involving any Iowa or Iowa State sporting event.

It is still unclear what exactly the students may have wagered on but both schools said they are investigating whether they were involved in illicit gambling activity.

“There wasn’t anything giving us pause or leading us to believe that any of these markets were compromised,” Ohorilko told the Action Network.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s Special Enforcement Operations Bureau is assisting in the investigation. The bureau is the primary criminal investigative agency for gambling laws in Iowa.

“At this time, no criminal charges have been filed and no further information will be released,” a release said.