In 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), opening the floodgates for legalized sports betting in the United States. Ever since, the sports betting industry has grown rapidly and is showing no signs of slowing down. According to PBS, Americans have bet over $220 billion on sports with legal gambling outlets as of May 2023 in the five years since the Supreme Court’s ruling.
While the revenue derived from sports betting is certainly an overwhelming positive, there are obvious externalities that were expected and have come to light in the past few years. The concept of “point shaving” and “throwing games” is by no means a new phenomenon, with the most famous episode being the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal over a century ago. But with increased ease and access for many Americans to place bets on games these days, the risk has elevated and we’ve seen some instances where athletes and coaches have run into trouble.
One of these unfortunate stories surfaced last spring when the state of Ohio detected “suspicious betting activity” surrounding a University of Alabama baseball game. You can read my Conduct Detrimental article at the time here. The Crimson Tide’s head coach at the time, Brad Bohannon, was connected to the probe. Shortly after the story broke, Bohannon was fired for cause by Alabama. However, additional details didn’t emerge until this week when Bohannon was punished by the NCAA and charges were filed against an Indiana man connected to the probe.
According to the NCAA, Bohannon messaged an individual he knew to be engaged in betting on the Alabama’s April 28th game against LSU (the eventual national champion). Bohannon texted the bettor “[Student-athlete] is out for sure ... Lemme know when I can tell [the opposing team] ... Hurry.”
After receiving the information from Bohannon, the bettor -- identified Wednesday as Bert Eugene Neff -- attempted to place a wager of $100,000 on the game but was limited to a $15,000 bet by the sportsbook's staff, according to the NCAA. The bet was placed with the BetMGM sportsbook at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, according to gaming regulators in Indiana and Ohio. Alabama followed through by scratching its starting pitcher ahead of the game, which LSU ended up winning 8-6.
Neff pled guilty this week to federal obstruction charges related to the situation. Neff is facing up to 10 years in prison and a fine of no more than $250,000 for the destruction of evidence, tampering with witnesses, and providing false statements to the FBI, according to the plea agreement released this week.
In addition, Bohannon’s for cause termination last spring was only the beginning of his punishments as the NCAA instituted a 15-year show cause against the coach. A show-cause penalty, which can and usually does make coaches unhireable, is the most severe recourse the NCAA has against coaches. Bohannon joins former Penn basketball coach Jerome Allen and former UNC-Greensboro basketball assistant Phil Collins as the only three people to ever catch a 15-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA, the stiffest individual penalty it's ever doled out to a coach. Bohannon failed to cooperate in the NCAA's investigations, which likely didn't help in the matter.
Even before knowing all the details, this was an unfortunate story for everyone involved. But as more information has surfaced, it’s even more unfathomable that a coach would sell out his players in this fashion. Before this situation unfolded, Bohannon held a great reputation among college baseball circles. He was an SEC Baseball “lifer” who had done tremendous work as an assistant before taking over the Alabama program in 2017.
Nonetheless, this story is just the latest unfortunate sports betting episode involving players or coaches. Hopefully, we won’t see many more instances of this because careers are put in jeopardy by doing so. But as sports betting continues to gain in popularity and convenience, the temptation will undoubtedly be there. The saving grace is that many of these sports books and betting services these days have safeguards in place to suspect suspicious activity. Let’s hope that we don’t have to read more stories like these moving forward.
Brendan Bell is the Southwest Regional Rep on the Conduct Detrimental Law Student Board. Follow him on Twitter (X) @_bbell5 and check out his work https://t.co/JvQdqfwFuN