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FRISCO, Texas — Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby cannot yet give a definitive opinion on how sports betting becoming legal in states like West Virginia sooner rather than later will affect the college athletics landscape.
But he isn't ignoring it.
College sports sit in a wait-and-see environment as the aftereffects from the United States Supreme Court's May ruling unfurls across the country. The Big 12 wants to be as proactive as possible in dealing with it, but being proactive isn't exactly that easy.
In May, the Supreme Court's ruling did away with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which limited legal sports wagering to Nevada with a few exceptions. Prior to that ruling, the West Virginia Legislature passed a law legalizing sports wagering in the state, dependent upon that decision.
West Virginia's casinos hope to be ready by football season. Other states aren't as far along in the process, and Bowlsby is concerned the laws could lack uniformity.
"Are we really going to end up with 50 states that all have different laws on legalized gambling?" He asked, at Monday's Big 12 media days. "What do we end up with if a couple of our states in the Big 12 footprint have legalized gambling and three others don't? What do you end up with if some say you can bet on professional sports but you can't bet on high school and college sports?"
"It's just taking a while to settle in," he added, "and, frankly, I don't know how it's going to turn out."
Football coaches don't know, either, but they're ready to take care of it once the landscape becomes clearer. External distractions are among college coaches' most hated things. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said he isn't sure how it will affect his players, but he is sure the new rules will.
Education, he said, is key.
"I think the distraction piece, it's like anything else that's out there right now," Campbell said. "Certainly, when you deal with 18-to-22-year-olds, it's about being educated on how topics can affect their lives."
"So when this rule goes into play, it'll be something that impacts and affects their lives. It's our job as educators to educate them."
The conference already is proactive with sports wagering. It works with a consultant group that helps the Big 12 examine when lines move abruptly or when an unusual amount of money is wagered on a particular game. The last thing the conference wants, Bowlsby said, are point-shaving or officiating issues.
Otherwise, he said, mainstream gambling has permeated the culture in other countries. Go to an English Premier League match, and there's a betting kiosk right next to the concession stand.
"It's hard to imagine that we're going to get there with college and universities," Bowlsby said, "but there is some enabling legislation out there that would permit a very far afield outcome from what we have experienced in the past."
The gambling issue brought up another topic uniform injury reports. The NFL releases one each week. The ACC has an injury report system as well, designated if players are probable, questionable, doubtful or out.
The Big 12, as well as other conferences, leave reporting of injuries to the discretion of the individual coaches. Some coaches are more forthcoming. Others are dead silent when it comes to breaks, bumps and bruises.
Bowlsby has seen what other conferences have and haven't done, but said the Big 12 is still exploring options.
"The FERPA and HIPAA considerations are substantial," Bowlsby said. "We haven't chosen to do it because we want to get some answers relative to the student records and the like. But my sense is that there's going to be a human cry for that to happen and as long as we don't get too far into the specifics of what the injury is and what kind of medication they may be taking and what the duration is and those kinds of things, but some sort of simple system may work."
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury who said sports betting wasn't an issue for him as a Texas Tech quarterback and he didn't think it would be an issue now wouldn't be against a weekly injury report.
"I'd be fine with it," Kingsbury said. "That's not a big deal for me. I don't have a thought either way. We're not a big hide-and-go-seek team."
He did, however, get a kick out of the thought of his old Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach, now at Washington State, getting to issue an injury report.
"If that passes," Kingsbury said with a smile, "good luck getting a real one from him."
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