UI president Bruce Harreld cautions athletic officials to be vigilant on gambling

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The advent of legalized sports betting in the state requires both vigilance and transparency from the University of Iowa athletic department, university president Bruce Harreld stressed Thursday.

Harreld, in his annual remarks at the first meeting of the Presidential Committee on Athletics, repeated a message he said he had delivered earlier to Hawkeye coaches: “I would just remind you that just a casual comment about the health (of an athlete) or practice or anything could really tip the scales in some sort of (betting) line that’s created in some casino.”

The PCA consists of faculty, athletic department staff and two athlete representatives.

It is now legal to bet on sporting events in Iowa, but it is still a violation of NCAA rules for any athlete, coach or athletic staff member to wager, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta reiterated.

Coaches and athletes have been getting increased education about the need for secrecy surrounding the playing status of individual Hawkeyes, particularly in high-profile sports such as football or basketball. Anyone overhearing such comments could easily provide that information to oddsmakers or gamblers, Barta said.

Harreld said he would like to see Iowa become a leader in being consistently transparent in releasing information about injured athletes.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, left, chats with Athletic Director Gary Barta before the Hawkeyes' game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017.

“You’re in, you’re out, you’re in-between. It’s that simple,” Harreld said. “We shouldn’t have each team make its own set of standards. We should all have a clear set of policies of how we enforce that, how we talk about it. I think leaving it to each team and each conference to do it is going to create some mischief.”

Pro sports leagues such as the NFL have long had uniform policies on reporting injuries, which are widely distributed so gamblers have the most up-to-date information possible. That is not the case in college sports.

Barta said one complicating factor is that college athletes are not regarded as employees and thus are entitled to secrecy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

“We’ve been very comfortable with (football coach) Kirk (Ferentz) basically providing an (injury) update on Tuesdays, and we’re going to continue operating the way we have in the past,” Barta said.

Harreld has another warning for coaches

Harreld did not mention former Hawkeye volleyball coach Bond Shymansky by name, but it was clear who he was referring to when he relayed another note of caution he gave current coaches: “If, out of the goodness of our heart, we’re trying to help a student-athlete, but we decide to help them any way that isn’t really transparent — that’s a little off, unique to them — we ought to pause and ask, ‘Is this right?’ And if we aren’t sure that we wouldn’t be glad to have that on the front page of the sports pages … we ought to pause and bring it to our colleagues: ‘Is this in bounds or out of bounds, in terms of the NCAA?’”

Shymansky was fired in June after Iowa said it uncovered a major NCAA violation on his watch, an unspecified impermissible benefit to a former athlete while she was competing here.

Shymansky, who had a 78-83 record at Iowa, had three years left on his contract. Associate head coach Vicki Brown has been the interim coach and has the Hawkeyes off to a 3-0 start.

Shymansky released a statement in June admitting to the NCAA infraction but said it was “an act of compassion” when he paid the unidentified woman’s rent in 2017.

Barta said there hasn’t been time yet to have a detailed discussion about naming Shymansky’s permanent replacement. He said he hasn’t talked with Brown about whether she wants to be a candidate in that search.

“I’m thrilled with Vicki and the job she’s doing right now,” Barta said. “We’re just trying to make sure those women who are on the team through a difficult situation this summer have the leadership they need so they can go out and have a great year.”

The NCAA has not yet ruled on whether there will be sanctions against the Iowa volleyball program.

Whoever the new coach is will help christen a brand-new arena next season. Iowa’s home volleyball matches will be contested in 5,100-seat Xtream Arena in Coralville.

Barta wants to erase ambiguity in transfer process

Iowa recently went through its most high-profile athlete transfer when wide receiver Oliver Martin was granted immediate eligibility three days before the football season began Saturday. Martin came to Iowa after two seasons at Michigan this summer.

Barta is among those who want to see the NCAA stop picking and choosing which athletes get waivers and which have to sit out a year, a process that can create confusion.

“The Big Ten may sponsor legislation: Either everybody sits or nobody sits,” said Barta, who was on a committee that devised new transfer regulations before last season, including no longer requiring athletes to seek permission from their school in order to leave and preventing that school from blocking their scholarship at the next university.

Barta said he has no opinion on whether all transfers should be accepted or denied.

“I could support either way. I just don’t want to support status quo,” he said. “I want either everybody to sit or everybody to have a one-time exemption where they could transfer and not sit.”

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

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