PODCAST: Sports-gambling latest and Iowa baseball's Rick Heller joins the show

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

Because of the urgency and stakes involved in a late postseason push, Rick Heller’s Iowa baseball program has become the focal point of a sports-gambling investigation that has flagged 41 current student-athletes at both Iowa and Iowa State.

Gambling on sports with an NCAA-sanctioned championship – college or pro – is strictly against NCAA rules and can result in the permanent loss of eligibility. Four Iowa baseball players, including a potential Big Ten Conference player of the year in Keaton Anthony, have now missed six games and as of Wednesday continued to wait to learn their eligibility fate.

But in a taped interview Wednesday morning that will air from 6-7 p.m. on the Hawk Central radio show on KXnO in Des Moines (1460 AM, 106.3 FM), Heller had grown increasingly optimistic that there might be a verdict one way or another soon.

The closing stretch:What Iowa must do to secure NCAA regional

Asked whether any of the four players would be given the green light to come back, Heller responded by saying, “I would’ve told you a week ago I didn’t have much hope of that. Being in the business that I have been, that stuff doesn’t go quick, usually,” he said.

But …

“I was told that there is a chance. They are pushing,” Heller said. “… I really don’t know a whole lot other than when I get told, ‘Hey, keep them ready to go.’ We’re hopeful we can get some sort of ruling and get some finality to it – whether they’re out for good or they’re able to come back.”

Iowa's best hitter, Keaton Anthony, was in uniform and warmed up before the Michigan State series last weekend but did not play. He and three other Hawkeyes have missed six games as they wait for rulings on their NCAA eligibility.

Anthony, reliever Jacob Henderson and backup catchers Gehrig Christensen and Ben Tallman were not in the dugout for the home series vs. Ohio State May 5-7 as Iowa referenced “a potential NCAA violation” initially in those mysterious absences. The four players returned to the dugout but did not play last weekend in Iowa’s sweep of Michigan State.

The team was traveling Wednesday to Northwestern for a three-game series that runs Thursday through Saturday. The Big Ten Tournament starts Tuesday in Omaha, and Iowa (37-12, 13-7 conference) is locked into that eight-team field. A strong showing in Evanston against the 8-38 Wildcats, and Iowa would be almost certain to qualify for its first NCAA regional since 2017. If the Hawkeyes could get back Anthony (who is hitting .389 with an on-base percentage of .505 and slugging of .701), that would be a postseason game-changer.

You can listen to the entire Heller interview with the Register’s Chad Leistikow and Wednesday’s Hawk Central radio show below or at this link.