Guerin: OSU, Iowa State and a tangled sports wagering web

Guerin: OSU, Iowa State and a tangled sports wagering web

If the loss of Hunter Dekkers and assorted other Cyclones over the Iowa gambling probe feels like “their” problem, a reason behind ISU’s 1-2 start, Arland Bruce’s case is more “ours.” He likely could have factored prominently on an OSU offense currently desperate for sparks.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Sep 19, 2023, 7:00am CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Sep 19, 2023, 7:00am CDT

On one sideline of Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State stood a player who could have tarnished one of the best Big 12 football games of 2021. We didn’t notice Hunter Dekkers that day in Ames because he never replaced Cyclones starting quarterback Brock Purdy. 

We might not think anything of him two years later, with OSU set to return to ISU, were it not for an Iowa Criminal Division investigation which led to charges of multiple Iowa State and Iowa athletes over their sports wagering. Dekkers got caught in that net for allegedly betting on 26 ISU sporting events, including that ‘21 game against OSU. 

We might not think of Dekkers come Saturday’s 3 p.m. kickoff in Ames since he won’t be back on that field. He recently plead guilty to underage gambling. 

According to the NCAA: “Student-athletes who engage in activities to influence the outcomes of their own games or knowingly provide information to individuals involved in sports betting activities will potentially face permanent loss of collegiate eligibility in all sports. This would also apply to student-athletes who wager on their own games or on other sports at their own schools.”

We should think of the case that ensnared Dekkers, though, because it also ensnared Arland Bruce. 

Bruce, a January transfer from Iowa to OSU, was moving up the Cowboys’ wide receiver depth chart in August camp when he was charged in the Iowa investigation. Bruce, who allegedly bet on multiple Hawkeye games he played in during the 2021 and ‘22 seasons, plead guilty to underage gambling last week, a fate in line with Dekkers’ forfeiture of college football eligibility. 

If the loss of Dekkers and assorted other Cyclones over the gambling probe, one being 2022 ISU rushing leader Jirehl Brock, feels like “their” problem, a reason behind ISU’s 1-2 start, Bruce’s case is more “ours.” 

He was practicing really well and was gonna be a factor on our team,” Mike Gundy said as the Bruce charges hit Aug. 12. 

He likely could have factored prominently on an OSU offense currently desperate for sparks.

Of greater concern than a player who never suited up for a Cowboys game is that player’s issue, something else Gundy referenced Aug. 12. 

“We’ve addressed gambling for years. The addressing part of it now is different because of the availability to do it with these,” Gundy said as he held up his cell phone to gathered media. “We all know that, right? Years ago when we addressed it with our players it was different because somebody would have to come find you or you would have to go to a bookie for lack of a better term. It was much more difficult to do it, if you wanted to do it. The access of phones has created issues. 

“So we’ve gone further with it over the last 12 months. What’s come out across the country has kind of been a shock to everybody, and we’ve addressed it multiple times over the last three weeks because of it, to try to coach them up on the dangers of it, much less how the NCAA sees it or whoever else.”

The NCAA sees it just as alarmingly. The organization recently released a study of college athletics compliance officials on the topic of gambling, in which “27% of autonomy (Power Five) schools had dealt with a sports wagering problem among their athletes or staff within the past year.”

That, plus the convenience of tying Dekkers, Bruce and the Iowa scandal to OSU-ISU week, prompted a call to Ben Dyson, Oklahoma State’s associate athletic director for compliance.

Coach is right. The advent of gambling on your cell phone has made it accessible to just about everybody,” Dyson told Sellout Crowd. “The marketing that’s gone along with it, the millions and millions of dollars that have been thrown toward making people aware that ‘Hey you can gamble straight from your phone! It’s fun! It’s easy!’ That’s kind of been something we’ve had to battle a little bit, just making sure student-athletes are educated.”

We’ll revisit that education in a second. First, though, an important buffer…

“We’re fortunate in that we don’t have legalized gambling on sports in our state yet,” Dyson said. “Obviously it’s coming, if the governor can get on track with the tribes and those sorts of things. It’ll come, but right now? We’ll use DraftKings as an example…”

DraftKings is an online sports wagering company that various athletes in the Iowa case used to place bets. Bruce allegedly used an alias to create a fake DraftKings account; others used relatives’ accounts with DraftKings or the wagering company FanDuel. 

“If one of our student-athletes tries to log in and create an account on Draft Kings and place a bet, if they’re within our state it’s not going to allow them to place that bet,” Dyson said. “Now obviously they could do illegal gambling offshore and all that stuff. But the easy way, the stuff that’s being thrown at them all the time, DraftKings, FanDuel and all that, the geolocation is actually going to prevent them from placing that bet.”

Again, as long as Oklahoma falls outside the 35 states (Iowa among them) to have legalized sports gambling, there is some security at places like OSU. 

There is also common sense. 

“The student-athletes are from states all across the U.S. A lot of them live in states where sports betting is legal. They do go home,” Dyson said. “And we play in states where it’s legal. So it’s not like I’m saying our student-athletes don’t have the opportunity to do it.”

Also…

“We all know that on college campuses in general there’s a ton of wagering going on,” Dyson said. 

Wagering that doesn’t have to involve DraftKings or FanDuel apps or offshore accounts. 

“You can’t gamble on any college or professional sport in which the NCAA sponsors a championship. Entry fee plus an opportunity to win is what they consider sports wagering,” Dyson said. “If it’s Warren Buffett’s billion-dollar March Madness bracket that’s free to enter, that’s not gambling. 

“But if it’s a 20-dollar pool in the locker room where everybody pitches in 20 bucks and winner takes the pot from a bracket, then that is gambling.”

And that brings us back to education. 

Dyson instructs every OSU team about the don’ts of sports gambling every fall the athletes return to school. He doubles back when cautionary tales like Iowa/Iowa State hit. He has coaches triple back, since athletes are likely to take Gundy, Mike Boynton and Kenny Gajweski more seriously than him.  

On the chance minds wander, and what 18-to-23-year-old minds don’t on a college campus, Dyson enlists backup.

“The Big 12 has partnered with U.S. Integrity, a company that basically does integrity monitoring for gambling,” he said. “As part of that there’s a new program they’re launching called ProhiBet, which is basically supposed to be like ‘prohibited bet.’ It launched Sept. 1. 

“We’re in the process of trying to get that up and running here, where basically we provide them some information of student-athletes’ names and staff member’s names and email addresses, and they work with gambling providers to prevent those individuals from either creating accounts or placing bets through those accounts. It’s supposed to prevent the bet from happening, and it alerts us that this individual tried to place a bet on this event.”

That will come in handy the day Oklahoma legalizes sports wagering, and the geolocation protections our universities’ compliance departments currently depend on no longer do much good.

It’s a lot for a compliance director to manage at a time his task is ever more perilous, and not just because of smart phones.

“As recently as a few months ago you had five athletic departments with marketing deals with sports gambling places,” Dyson said. “LSU had a Caesars deal. Colorado had a deal. Michigan State had a deal. They were in bed with these sports wagering places. 

“So it’s a little bit of the whole ‘NCAA as two-faced. If there’s money to be made, we’re interested in it. Do as we say, not as we do.’”

Those partnerships have since disintegrated amid controversy, but the willingness to make them is the point. Same as schools’ willingness to involve gambling outlets as sports network sponsors. And national networks’ abundance of wagering details in their programming.

“If I turn on certain ESPN channels it’s all numbers all over the screen. I’ll be honest, until recently I didn’t really know what a lot of that meant,” Dyson said. “We did a Zoom meeting with a member of the U.S. Integrity staff. ‘OK, explain some of this to us. What are we looking at here? With all these numbers and terms?’

“The whole prop bet, micro bet, all that stuff… We have to get ourselves up to speed so we know what our student-athletes are up against and how all these betting websites and processes work.”

If we’re not thinking about Arland Bruce or Hunter Dekkers as OSU plays Iowa State without either Saturday, trust that one guy who should be thinking about them is. 

“I think everybody’s kind of holding their breath a little bit,” Dyson said. “If law enforcement wanted to get involved…The difference at Iowa was law enforcement. It wasn’t the NCAA. They don’t have the ability to geo-fence and do all those types of things. Law enforcement does. 

“We’re all holding our breath a little just because we’re not naive enough to think, ‘Oh that happens other places. That will never happen here.’”

 

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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