University of Cincinnati Fire Two Members of Baseball Staff Amid Ohio Sports Betting Infractions

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 30, 2023 08:00 PM
University of Cincinnati Fire Two Members of Baseball Staff Amid Ohio Sports Betting Infractions

The controversial relationship between legal sports betting in the United States and college universities has been steadily crescendoing over the past few months. And now, it may be reaching the peak of its controversy, as the number of scandals quickly mounts. The latest case of misconduct comes out of The Buckeye State, where the University of Cincinnati recently fired two members from the baseball program's staff amid accusations of Ohio sports betting improprieties.

The athletics department for the college initially dropped this news in an announcement released to the press. They first said that the "baseball team is under review." Then, on May 17, the baseball team's assistant manager, Kyle Sprague, and its Director of Operations, Andy Nagel, were "relieved" of their responsibilities. People quickly connected the dots from there.

This latest controversy bubbles to the surface at a time of increased tension inside the United State's gambling industry. States are growing more and more concerned about the access wagering operators have to underage gamblers through their partnerships with college universities. Officials tasked with regulating sports betting in Ohio have actually been at the forefront of the debate. They have taken steps, both official and informal, to monitor and enforce policies aimed at curbing underage gambling. 

Other states are now starting to join the movement in droves, with many even proposing and approving legislative measures that give them additional power over sports betting operators and their daily practices. Most believe this will all end with gambling laws restricting partnerships between college campuses and gambling companies. But the timeline for that development is unknown, and it isn't entirely clear how many states will actually embrace the practices.

Still, with each passing scandal, the awkward dynamic created by allowing sports betting operators to get in bed with universities becomes more undeniable. The question is: Will the latest issue at the University of Cincinnati have any ramifications for Ohio sports betting? And how about sports betting in the United States at large?

Details of the Ohio Sports Betting Scandal at the University of Cincinnati are Starting to Emerge

The circumstances of the sports betting controversy in Cincinnati were originally fuzzy. For a while, the public was left to speculate. In recent weeks, however, more official details have started to emerge.

Jeremy Rauch unpacked the extent of what we know for FOX19 NOW while noting that Sprague and Nagel were not actually gambling:

"Multiple sources have also told FOX19 NOW that Sprague and Nagel did not gamble; however, a parent connected to a player on the team was gambling and had conversations with Sprague and Nagel. The men were fired because they did not report the information about gambling to the program, to the directors, to the athletics department, or to the NCAA. As to whether the parent was trying to impact the outcome of games, sources said multiple times that lineups were not changed and coaches did not make decisions to impact the outcome. The Ohio Casino Control Commission said they are not investigating UC and are aware of the university's decision to fire Sprague and Nagel."

Sources apparently also told FOX19 that head coach Scott Googins was under investigation, and that his fate had not yet been determined by the university. As of this writing, though, it has been roughly two weeks since Sprague and Nagel were shown the door, and there has been no report about Googins getting relieved of his duties.

The NCAA Has Anti-Gambling Measures in Place, But Are They Enough?

Reputable sportsbook operators have measures in place to prevent underage gambling. Governments all over the world rely on them to weed out transactions and account requests from people not old enough to gamble. These security features are actually most prominent (and effective) among offshore operators. All of the sites from our reviews of the best online sportsbooks have protocols in place to help identify underage gamblers and prevent them from processing transactions.

These features are noticeably weaker among licensed operators in the United States. Various fines and penalties have been handed out over the past half-decade to reputable sportsbooks because of inadvertent underage gambling. The offenses vary from actual bets placed to promotional emails sent to account users not old enough to bet on sports.

In this Cincinnati case specifically, though, the issue isn't so much the sportsbooks as the NCAA's own policies. They are relying on people to self-report conversations. That's an incredibly flimsy approach. Discussions off the record don't come with a paper trail or transactional record. They cannot be digitally detected. They can only be overheard and relayed.

Indeed, the NCAA's punishments for gambling are fairly stark. This holds true for collegiate athletes, staff members and anyone associated with sports programs. But what good are zero-tolerance penalties when the oversight of prospective offenses is so flawed?

This Ohio Sports Betting Scandal Will Not be the Last

Truth be told, the latest Ohio sports betting issue is likely the tip of the iceberg. For every controversy we hear and read about, there are many more not publicly reported. There are even more likely not known about, period.

Unfortunately, this is the reality Ohio and every other state must grapple with. The United States has made legal sports betting a staple. And the benefits are undeniable. States with legal sports betting are, by and large, making money hand over fist. But the increased presence of sportsbook operators also raises the risk of unintended consequences.

Underage gambling is one of these unintended consequences. Questionable, if not outright corrupt, behavior from team associates is another. This isn't just about collegiate programs, either. Professional sports franchises must reconcile the same moral dilemmas. Ditto for sports media companies.

The list of issues is seemingly endless. For instance, how do sports media companies handle the reporting of key last-minute injuries when it could impact betting odds? Are they sharing the intel with their sports betting partners first before releasing it to the public?

This is just a taste of the logistical and moral tug-of-war taking place inside the United States right now. This latest Ohio sports betting controversy isn't the first. And it most certainly won't be the last.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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