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NCAA President’s Speech Tackles Sports Betting

When NCAA President Charlie Baker took the stage at the NCAA Convention in Phoenix earlier this week he also addressed the 300-pound gorilla in the room, sports betting. Baker’s State of College Sports address covered some very tough issues such as how to punish players who violate gambling rules and what to do about player props.

Baker touched on the ubiquitous nature of regulated sports betting saying, “Sports betting is basically everywhere, especially on campuses. And the harm it can cause is real. Every conversation about the team, the competition and the health and well-being of their teammates is not just chatter anymore but currency for some and inside information for others.”

With sports betting offering so many temptations, and pitfalls, for young athletes Baker spoke at length about the tools the NCAA is offering to help them resist those temptations. He also addressed the conference’s efforts to punish players who violate gambling policies and suggested that a bit more mercy would be applied in future cases. “We’ve already made huge strides in updating how the NCAA deals with sports betting. The penalties we had were outdated and too harsh on young people,” he added.

Sports betting operators were also a target of Baker’s speech, especially those that offer player props on college sports. Though this type of wager is only available in Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio, they’re already causing big problems for student athletes. Plenty of players have reported in-person and online harassment from bettors when their efforts on the field weren’t up to par.

Baker is facing a big challenge in the regulated sports betting era and it will be interesting to see how much protection his efforts afford student athletes across the country.