Iowa, ISU gambling investigation: Amounts wagered key in possible athlete reinstatement

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

The punishment for student-athletes who gamble on any college or pro sport sanctioned by the NCAA is steep: a loss of college eligibility.

However, there is a reinstatement process outlined by the NCAA that has been updated to include a section about wagers placed after April 25, 2018, a date shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a federal ban on commercial sports gambling. A total of 33 states have now adopted legalized sports gambling.

That reinstatement process is of high interest to the 41 current student-athletes at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University at the center of a sports-gambling investigation that involves the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation's special-enforcement bureau and is being watched closely by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. At Iowa, 26 student-athletes in five men's sports (baseball, basketball, football, track and field, wrestling) were flagged; Iowa State said "approximately 15" in three men's sports (football, track and field, wrestling) were involved.

How serious is it?Legal, eligibility questions at Iowa, Iowa State

Beyond any potential criminal charges – none had been filed in this investigation as of Tuesday, per the DCI – the question of NCAA eligibility is at the immediate forefront for the participants, coaches and fans of both universities.

And depending on how much each student-athlete was found to have gambled on sports and what types of wagers were placed will depend on whether he will have a chance to return to competition.

Documents obtained by the Des Moines Register outline the process that each athlete could face. And the dollar amounts wagered are key.

According to the Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement Guidelines, there are three categories of severity outlined.

No. 1: Match-fixing or an athlete betting on his own institution.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission said there is no evidence of compromised markets at Iowa or Iowa State.

More:Could Iowa, ISU student athletes face criminal charges in gambling investigation?

However, there has been speculation that one or more of the Iowa athletes placed a bet on the Iowa-South Carolina Women’s Final Four game (which was won by the Hawkeyes, who were 11½-point underdogs). Whether that’s accurate or not, it serves as an example of something that is highly frowned upon by the NCAA. According to NCAA bylaw 10.3.2, “A student-athlete who engages in activities designed to influence the outcome of an intercollegiate contest or in an effort to affect win-loss margins ("point shaving") or who participates in any sports wagering activity involving the student-athlete's institution shall permanently lose all remaining regular-season and postseason eligibility in all sports.”

No. 2: Placing online sports bets not permitted by NCAA rules.

These cases start with a penalty of “charge a season, sit a season” – meaning the athlete must sit out the current season and all of the next – but can be reviewed on a case-by-case basis “to determine whether an alternative withholding condition is appropriate.” The widely shared story of Virginia Tech linebacker Alan Tisdale, who placed $400 in bets on last year’s NBA Finals and won $41 in profits, resulted in a six-game suspension for the 2022 football season. That amounted to half the season.

The reinstatement language adds that if the athlete is found to commit a future violation, then he/she would lose college eligibility permanently.

No. 3: For all other cases violating NCAA bylaw 10.3.

That means “knowingly participating in sports wagering activities or providing information to individuals” for the purposes of gambling. Examples are participating in an NCAA Tournament pool or a fantasy football league with prize money.

There are several tiers of potential reinstatement that are notable in this case:

  • Wagering or risking $25 or less: No withholding penalty of eligibility.
  • More than $25 up to $100: Loss of 10% of a season.
  • More than $100 up to $300: Loss of 30% of a season.
  • More than $300 up to $500: Loss of 50% of a season. (This would align with the Virginia Tech linebacker penalty.)
  • More than $500: Sit a season/charge-a-season penalties are recommended, with the possibility of permanent loss of eligibility.

The reinstatement rules in all categories also outline that any gambling profits received must be repaid to restore eligibility (also consistent with the Virginia Tech precedent).

More:Leistikow: As sports-gambling probe hovers, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz feels program momentum

Bottom line, there is hope from the camps at both Iowa and Iowa State that some NCAA leniency will take place. There is particular urgency for resolutions involving the Iowa baseball program, which was front and center of this investigation as four players were missing from the dugout at last weekend's series against Ohio State, with the school announcing they were out due to potential NCAA violations. Star hitter Keaton Anthony was one of the four missing. The Hawkeyes begin a crucial three-game series Friday against Michigan State and are vying for their first NCAA regional berth since 2017.

Both universities also cited men's track as having student-athletes identified. The Cyclones are competing in the Big 12 Outdoor Championships starting Friday in Norman, Oklahoma; the Hawkeyes begin the Big Ten Outdoor Championships Friday in Bloomington, Indiana.

Iowa and Iowa State both stated that football players are involved, too. How much each of those players wagered on sports will likely impact how much time they will miss in the fall.

“I don’t know about concern, but we’re all just waiting for more information,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz told the Register on Wednesday night. "We pretty much know what you know. We’ll deal with it as it comes. Quite frankly, it’s not anything I gave much thought to prior to Sunday. But gambling, it’s everywhere."