Alabama Sports Betting Scandal May Fetch Former Crimson Tide Baseball Coach a Lifetime Ban

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Nov 16, 2023 12:00 AM
A former Crimson Tide baseball coach is facing a lifetime gambling ban for his involvement in an Alabama sports betting scandal.

Former University of Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon is facing a lifetime ban from sports wagering after his involvement in an Alabama sports betting scandal this past April.

As of now, the punishment isn’t official. It is a recommendation from the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), which has been investigating the matter. 

Notably, sports betting in Alabama isn’t yet legal. The wagers in question that raised red flags and prompted the investigation were placed at the Great American Ball Park, which is home to MLB’s Cincinnati Reds. Bets were placed on the Crimson Tide, the team Bohannon managed, but fell under the OCCC’s jurisdiction because they were processed in the Ohio sports betting market.

To this day, the University of Alabama has not confirmed Bohannon’s involvement in the scandal. However, they suddenly dismissed him after five years on the job. His exit came just three days after a report that “suspicious” wagers were placed on an Alabama vs. LSU baseball game. The bets in question caused “Ohio’s top gambling regulator to bar licensed sportsbooks in the state from accepting bets on the Tide's games,” according to the Associated Press. Sportsbooks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania soon followed suit.

Immediately, it isn’t clear whether the OCCC’s recommendation of a lifetime sports betting ban will be granted. But the details in the case seem pretty ironclad. And they raise a question: Could this scandal cause further delay in the legalization of Alabama sports betting?

Full Details of Alabama Sports Betting Scandal Caught on Surveillance Video

Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press provided full details on the Alabama sports betting scandal that cost Bohannon his job and cast a spotlight on the more sordid side of sports betting in the United States:

ESPN reported later that surveillance video from the sportsbook located at the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark indicated the person who placed the bets was communicating with Bohannon at the time. ESPN cited multiple anonymous sources with direct information about the investigation. One of the people familiar with the investigations told the AP on Friday that [Bert] Neff was the person who placed those bets. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne has since said the university had received no evidence that any players were involved in the situation.

Neff has been identified as an “Indiana man” whose son is listed as pitcher on the University of Cincinnati baseball team’s roster. In addition to the allegations he faces alongside Bohannon, Neff was also involved in a similar scandal that resulted in the dismissal of two Cincinnati baseball employees. 

For Bohannon’s part, he is accused of providing Neff with information on Alabama’s lineup that wasn’t yet public. Neff then placed a wager of $100,000 against the Crimson Tide. Alabama ultimately ended up losing that game.

Officials Pushing for ‘Zero Tolerance’ When It Comes to Punishing Sports Gambling Violations

In the aftermath of this scandal, Bohannon not only lost his job, but the OCC has proposed adding him to “Ohio’s Sports Gaming Involuntary Exclusion List,” according to ABC 9 in Cincinnati. Bohannon was already notified of their recommendation, and he will have “30 days” to contest his inclusion on that last.

The Alabama sports betting scandal has prompted a wide array of responses from key stakeholders. Most recently, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey called for zero tolerance responses to infractions such as this.

"There must be zero tolerance for activity that puts into question the integrity of competition," he said. "We will remain in communication with the university through its ongoing review and will have no further comment at this time."

This stance is not unique. Concern is rising across the country as more and more retail and online sportsbooks in the United States gain access to different markets. Sports betting scandals are up across the board, including in professional sports. The NFL, for instance, has handed out multiple suspensions to players who have violated their sports gambling policy.

Collegiate sports are considered especially vulnerable to insider wagering scandals such as this one. Though players can capitalize on their naming, image and likeness rights, the vast majority of collegiate athletes are not making money off their university careers. What’s more, even prominent coaches in their field like Bohannon are not lucratively compensated for their services. The gargantuan contracts you read about are the exception for big-time programs. And they are almost entirely specific to college football and college basketball rather than hockey, soccer or baseball.

Will This Case Impact the Future of Alabama Sports Betting?

Scandals involving local teams and organizations can always impact the sports betting discussion. Especially for states in which it’s not yet legal. There will be officials in the state who use this as an example of the perils and pitfalls of legalizing Alabama sports betting.

Still, it’s unlikely Bohannon’s involvement winds up having a material impact on the discourse. As we have discussed previously, the future of sports betting is facing other issues. 

Many officials are worried about the impact Alabama sports betting could have on local bingo halls. Others maintain that voters prefer an Alabama state lottery to the legalization of sports betting.

More than anything, though, the push to legalize sports betting in Alabama lacks conviction. Even those who support its implementation have not made it a priority relative to other concerns. As of now, it doesn’t seem like sports betting will be on the legislative agenda when meetings take place in March 2024

Of course, there’s still time for that to change. But Alabama has long been considered one of the states that will legalize sports betting last. The high-profile nature of this Crimson Tide sports betting scandal is unlikely to change that—one way or another.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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