The commissioners of the Power Five college football conferences are embracing the idea of creating a nationwide player availability reporting system as legalized sports betting comes to states across the country.
Last week, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, ACC Commissioner John Swofford, and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby all said at their respective conference college football media days that they would support some sort of injury reporting protocol.
The goal is to remove one critical information component of football, the health and availability of certain players, from becoming susceptible to outside influences. Protecting the integrity of sports with expanded legal betting is of utmost concern to both the NCAA and professional leagues.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany joined his colleagues on Monday in backing an availability report.
The reason we need to do that is with the exception of the home field, the availability of personnel is critical to people who are interested in gambling legally or illegally,” Delany stated. “When players are unavailable, we should know that. It’s something that we should do and probably should have done before, but certainly now.”
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned the federal sports betting prohibition in May, effectively paving the way for states to dictate their own laws on the gambling activity. Delaware and New Jersey have already joined Nevada in legalizing full-fledged sports betting. Five others have passed bills to govern sports wagering, and 14 more are considering such legislation.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is the only Power Five boss yet to chime in on availability reports. But he’ll almost certainly be asked of the issue at his conference’s college football media day this week.
A major hurdle the NCAA must overcome in deciding how to apply a college football player availability report is the legal fact that since collegiate athletes are amateurs, they’re entitled to health privacy laws under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).
That’s a major difference from the NFL where players are considered employees, and their employers (aka teams and the league) are entitled to the status of their health and ability to work.
Sankey was the first to call it an “availability report,” which wouldn’t necessarily mean a player’s inability for a game is due to health reasons.
Delany agrees and said, “I don’t call it an injury report as much as I think about it as player availability. Whether that comes out of an injury, eligibility, or some transgression of one kind or another, I think we need to do that.”
Many college football coaches have long considered the ability to conceal injuries until kickoff as part of their overall strategy. But with commissioners embracing the idea of a nationwide reporting system, some of the game’s most prominent coaches are finally easing their positions.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he “would be fine with that. Want to do an injury report? We can do an injury report.”
Penn State coach James Franklin, however, said he’s against reporting injuries, especially detailed disclosures.
“If I tell you that he has a bad ankle, what are they going to do? Go after the ankle,” the Nittany Lions coach opined. “If you have a weakness, why would you let people know?”
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