Sports wagering and student-athletes

By Chase Hartman

The growth of legal gambling has caused a noticeable increase in the number of sports wagering-related cases processed by the NCAA, and the Internet has made it easy for student-athletes to place bets.

Assistant Director of Compliance at Youngstown State University, Tyler Mettille, explained the process for helping student-athletes avoid any conflicts.

“YSU does general education of sports gambling at least twice a year, and the athletics department educates student-athletes around the time of the Super Bowl, March Madness and during the fall,” Mettille said.

Chet Cooper, a professor of Biological Sciences and NCAA faculty representative, explained how the Athletics Department educates student-athletes. 

“The Athletics Department drives this information on a constant basis to the students that they are not allowed to bet on anything even if there is no money involved,” Cooper said.

Mary Dunn, a former YSU basketball player, went through the training as a student and explained her experience with education on gambling as a student-athlete. 

“We had a class on NCAA policies and we were given a booklet about it. There was zero tolerance for gambling at all, including sports. Since if you would lose scholarships, eligibility, etc,” Dunn said.

Mettille said that student-athletes are forbidden from betting on anything that is sponsored by the NCAA. According to Mettille, non-athletes are allowed to bet on NCAA-sponsored sports, but it isn’t the same for student-athletes because gambling on sports would compromise the integrity of the enterprise. Since they have insider information. 

Student-athletes can get actively involved in the outcome of a game by doing things like shaving points. Point shaving is an attempt to influence the final score of a game so the predicted winner wins by less than the point spread.

Mettille explained when a student-athlete at YSU breaks the gambling prohibition, the first step is intervention. 

“Our intent is to never punish. Our intent is to provide help and shed light on a potential addiction problem,” Mettille said. 

YSU provides resources for student-athletes and helps them get on track with an open-door policy rather than issuing a punishment.

“A leading cause [for] why student-athletes go against regulations of the NCAA is the possibility of them betting with their friends, for example, fantasy football and March Madness,” Mettille said. 

Cooper explained in these instances that the concern is the students may not know when gambling is inappropriate due to a lack of education, lack of awareness, or even habit. 

“An example of lack of awareness in sports gambling could be having a student-athlete bet the outcome of a game with their friend with something like a pizza,” Cooper said. 

Student-athletes are taught not to bet on any sports or to wager anything, even if it’s money or food.  

YSU is mandated to report information about a student-athlete who is gambling. Mettille said that YSU does everything it can to direct its student-athletes to the appropriate help. The university has a system to help all students in need, not just student-athletes. When a member of the YSU faculty or staff wants to direct a student to resources, they fill out the Penguin of Concern Form. 

“The Penguin of Concern Form, even if it may have been under a different name, has been implemented at YSU as long as it has had sports,” said Mettille. 

If the student-athlete needs help, a Penguin of Concern Form will be filed and sent to the Dean of Students. Someone in this office will reach out to the student within 24 hours to offer services. 

According to Mettile, YSU tells their student-athletes that if they’re aware of a student-athlete with a gambling problem, to let YSU know about it immediately. 

YSU tells student-athletes that their intention is to never seek punishment but rather to get help for the student and avoid a long-term problem.

“We don’t encounter many gambling issues very often or even at all,” Mettille said. 

Mettille said he believes YSU is proactive in its messaging and education to its student-athletes, and because of this, he’s not aware of an athlete who has needed urgent help.

According to Mettille, if a student-athlete were to bet on YSU sports, they would be immediately deemed ineligible. Ineligible players cannot be part of any competitive sports. If a student-athlete wants to become eligible again, they would need to go through a Recertification Process. 

According to the NCAA, the Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff reviews each student-athlete reinstatement request individually based on its own merits and set of specific facts. 

“SAR’s first philosophy is ensuring the individual student-athlete, as well as the non-student-athlete body, is at the forefront of each decision. With respect to a violation, SAR attempts to place the student-athlete back in the position he or she would have been prior to the violation occurring. SAR does this by evaluating the totality of the circumstances surrounding each particular case,” according to the NCAA.

YSU has its own set of procedures in accordance with the NCAA, according to Mettille.

“When YSU reports the student-athlete, they wait to hear from the NCAA for the result of the violation. The NCAA could tell YSU that the student could be ineligible, depending on the situation, from five games to being completely ineligible,” Mettille said. 

Cooper explained that the NCAA takes punishments seriously and varies its punishments depending on the case.

“The NCAA, depending on the case, could fine the university responsible for the student and suspend the student for any period of time since this matter is taken very seriously,” Cooper said.

One of the other changes to college campuses is sponsorship deals with betting companies. According to Mettille, YSU doesn’t have sponsorships that are sports gambling. However, YSU does have a corporate sponsorship with Hollywood Gaming.