UI, ISU student-athletes under investigation for illegal sports betting

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The Iowa Hawkeyes face — and ultimately fall — to the Iowa State Cyclones, 7-10, at Kinnick Stadium. Sept. 10, 2022. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

Rumors of illicit and possible illegal sports betting by college athletes in Iowa began circulating over the weekend, after four University of Iowa baseball players were absent from games against Ohio State. In a statement on Friday UI Athletics said, “Due to a potential NCAA violation, we withheld some student-athletes from competition.”

Just one day before that statement, the University of Alabama fired its head baseball coach, Brian Bohannan, after gambling regulators in Ohio began investigating suspicious bets being made on Alabama baseball games.

On Monday, both UI and Iowa State University confirmed that there are ongoing investigations into sports betting among athletes at those schools.

In a one-paragraph statement, ISU said it 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.”

UI Athletics issued a more detailed statement explaining it was aware of the sports-betting investigation, and had “received information about 111 individuals.” That number includes “26 current student-athletes from baseball, football, men’s basketball, men’s track and field, and men’s wrestling, as well as one full-time employee of the UI Department of Athletics.” UI said no current or former coaches were on the list of individuals it had received.

Both schools said they had informed the NCAA about the investigations.

Under NCAA rules, athletes, coaches and athletic department staff are prohibited from betting on sports in which the NCAA has recognized championships. That prohibition applies to collegiate, amateur and professional sports, even in states where sports betting is legal.

“Brian Ohorilko, director of gaming for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his office was monitoring a law enforcement investigation of gambling among athletes at the two schools,” the AP reported. “He said he knows of no evidence indicating match fixing or suspicious wagering activity on Iowa or Iowa State contests.”

In its statement on Monday, UI Athletics said that on May 2, “University of Iowa leadership was notified of potential criminal conduct related to sports wagering that also suggested possible NCAA violations.”

After receiving more information from law enforcement, on Friday the department “alerted the NCAA to potential violations.” It also “notified several student-athletes that they would not be participating in upcoming competitions” and “engaged outside legal counsel to advise the university and potentially lead an investigation.”

Sports betting is legal in Iowa, but remains illegal for anyone under 21.

“Gov. Reynolds believes that legalizing sports betting will bring this practice out of an unregulated black market,” a Reynolds’ spokesperson said when the governor signed the betting bill into law in May 2019. “This law will regulate, tax, and police sports betting in a safe and responsible way.”