FRISCO, Texas — Bob Bowlsby prepared for plenty of subjects heading into Monday.
Sports gambling wasn’t among them.
Bowlsby, the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, jokingly said he felt he “didn’t have anything intelligent to say” about sports gambling. After a Supreme Court ruling in May, states can now legalize betting on sports. But it hasn’t been a point of discussion in the Big 12 office or among conference members in the months since the Supreme Court’s reversal.
Bowlsby said it’s too soon for such talks.
“We’re very much in a wait-and-see environment right now,” he said on Day 1 of Big 12 Media Days. “There’s a lot of talk about integrity fees. There is a lot of talk about how it gets managed. Are we really going to end up with 50 states that all have different laws on legalized gambling? There are some states that have moved ahead, but most are moving slowly.”
It mirrors the Big 12’s methodical pace.
“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?” Bowlsby asked in a series of hypothetical questions. “It’s just taking a while to settle in, and frankly, I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”
One safeguard the conference already has in place is a consulting group which alerts the league whenever betting lines move abruptly or when an unusual amount of money is bet on a specific game. It provides, Bowlsby said, a layer of protection from potential point-shaving or officiating issues.
Only time will tell how much further sports gambling can move into the mainstream.
“You go to an English Premier League (soccer) game, (and) there’s a betting kiosk right next to the hot dog stand,” said Bowlsby, referring to the gambling environment in England. “It’s hard to imagine that we’re going to get there with college and universities, but there is some enabling legislation out there that would permit a very far afield outcome from what we have experienced in the past.”
Bowlsby said he knew of only one thing irrefutably true with the advent of nationwide sports gambling.
“As near as I can tell, the real losers in the whole thing is organized crime,” he said. “If it’s legal everywhere, it’s hard to imagine why people would place illegal bets and risk that sort of jeopardy.”
Bowlsby foresees ‘human cry’ for player injury reports
The Big 12 doesn’t force coaches to release injury reports during game weeks. But Bowlsby said he thinks it’s only a matter of time before the conference — or even the NCAA — ends up requiring it to protect the sanctity of the sport in light of the state gambling legalization.
“We haven’t chosen to do it because we want to get some answers relative to the student records and the like,” Bowlsby said, “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, some sort of simple system may work.”
Bowlsby noted the ACC already requires an injury report for conference games, using three different designations: out, doubtful and probable.
In Bowlsby’s mind, a similar “three-tiered” injury reporting system would work elsewhere, whether it was specific to the Big 12 or instituted by the NCAA.
“We’ve talked about whether or not (an injury report would) get managed by the conferences or whether it gets managed at a national level,” Bowlsby said, “and I think that’s unresolved at this point.”
Bowlsby offers no insight on Baylor situation
Bowlsby readily expounded upon every topic tossed his way Monday.
Except for one: Baylor.
In a recent story by CBS Sports, a source told national college football reporter Dennis Dodd that Baylor was worried the Big 12 would kick it out of the conference after its ongoing sexual assault scandal first surfaced in 2016.
Bowlsby refused to discuss any “specifics” about Baylor’s situation.
“We are doing a verification process that is not an investigation,” Bowlsby said. “It’s a verification of 105 recommendations that Pepper Hamilton put forward. We are still in the process of doing that, and I expect we will bring it to a close in the not too distant future. .... We’ve said publicly that we will issue a written report. When we can make more comments on it, we will do so.”
Media days on the move
During his time at the podium to kick off media days, Bowlsby announced news about future editions of the annual event.
The preseason event will remain in Texas each of the next two years. But it's moving 35 miles south. In 2019 and 2020, AT&T Stadium will host Big 12 Media Days in Arlington, Texas.
"The dates of those media days are not yet available," Bowlsby said, "but we will give that to you just as soon as we have it."
Bowlsby made sure to note the number of accomplishments achieved by the league and its conference members this past school year.
- Only conference with teams in the College Football Playoff (Oklahoma), the men's Final Four (Kansas), the College World Series and the women's College World Series.
- All 20 NCAA-recognized sports at Texas reached the postseason. ("I don't know that I've ever heard of that," Bowlsby said.
- Oklahoma had top-10 draft choices in three different sports (Baker Mayfield went No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, Trae Young went No. 5 in the NBA draft and Kyler Murray went No. 9 in the MLB draft).
- Texas won the NCAA men's swimming and diving championship while Oklahoma State won the national title in men's golf. The Big 12 accounted for four in the final eight teams at the NCAA Men's Golf Championships.