KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Is legalized sports betting coming to Tennessee, and would that be a good thing for Vols fans?
Tyler Wyatt, a self-described sports betting consultant in Knoxville, published an extensive piece on the topic for Gridiron Now on Tuesday, revealing that a bill could pass as early as the spring of 2019.
There’s a lot to consider, especially now that coaches will have the option of playing freshmen in up to four games while maintaining their redshirts.
Does Coach A who is leading by 3 touchdowns with 3 minutes left run up the score to impress pollsters? Or does he sub in freshmen to get them experience and perhaps forgo or allow a point spread-busting score?
Phillip Fulmer weighs in
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey pointed out at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., last month that the gambling issue presents more of a challenge for the college game than the pro game.
Sankey said there are more “touch points” around college athletes, in terms of them going to class with fellow students. College teams also have larger rosters as well as college-aged trainers and managers who have information that could be critical to bettors.
Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer has the sports gambling issue on his radar.
“The integrity part of it is what everybody is concerned about, and how do you maintain that,” Fulmer said in Destin. “You get it out of the darkness and into the light.
“I don’t know where it’s going to go, but the No. 1 thing that everyone is concerned about is making sure that the integrity part of it stays intact. I have concerns — not about some players, but some people around the program. You have to have your antennas up about those things.”
Tennessee politicians split
State politicians are split on the matter, according to Wyatt’s report.
“It’s going to be a tough legislative battle to get this thing through in Tennessee,” state Sen. Brian Kelsey told Wyatt, “and as I’ve said, I want to hear more from citizens across the state over the next several months before January as to whether or not they feel this is a good thing. But so far, the overwhelming response from people has been positive.”
Wyatt concludes that if people in Tennessee can “go down and purchase a scratch-off [lottery] ticket,” they should also be able to “put $20 on the Yankees to win. There is no difference.”
The gambling issue drew a great deal of interest and invoked conversation at the SEC Spring Meetings.
Coaches and athletic directors said there is a heightened awareness after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal law blocking states from legalizing sports gambling.
Florida AD gives his take
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin also tackled the topic.
“The initial thing we have to do is make sure we’re educating our athletes and coaches on what the ruling means,” Stricklin said. “In Florida, we’re a long way from that [legalized sports betting] passing in our state. But before the school year we want to educate our students on it.”
Stricklin said the Gators will monitor things closely.
“It’s making sure everything is on the up and up, and your coaches and athletes aren’t being caught up in something you don’t want to be a part of,” he said. “You might have to be adding more compliance staff.”