Hawkeye coaches talk evolving sports landscape, sports betting amid investigation

Published: May. 12, 2023 at 7:37 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - More than 40 student-athletes from Iowa and Iowa State are being investigated for their involvement in sports gambling. The investigation is still ongoing, but three University of Iowa coaches say this is just another aspect of the ever-evolving college sports landscape.

In addition to NIL and the transfer portal, sports gambling is now at the forefront of conversations surrounding collegiate sports.

“It’s just another piece of the changing puzzle in college sports,” Iowa men’s basketball assistant head coach Matt Gatens said.

Gatens, who is in his second season as an assistant coach, said the culture has changed around sports betting since when he played for the Hawkeyes from 2009-2012.

“Back then, you probably had to go to a casino and place a bet. Now, everything’s on your phone. It’s just different. The culture - everything’s changed,” he said.

The student-athletes involved from both schools could face legal consequences if under the age of 21 and penalties from the NCAA which could result in suspensions and eligibility loss. Gatens said he was made aware by Iowa during his time playing that gambling was off limits.

“Back then, there would be conversations, some early in the season,” he said. “Your meetings you have when you first come in about these are the rules. You’re not supposed to be a part of gambling and all that,” Gatens added.

Sports gambling wasn’t legalized in Iowa until 2019. Hawkeye football’s Kirk Ferentz, who is the longest tenured head coach in FBS history entering his 25th season, has vocalized his concern about the direction of where college football is going.

“College football has changed so much in the last five years,” Ferentz said. ”The main focus would be recruiting. That covers the NIL, the portal, all those kinds of things. We’re dealing with a situation right now, where quite frankly we still don’t have a lot of details on. We are being cooperative. We’ll continue to be cooperative,” he said.

With 33 states allowing sports betting, it’s become easily accessible to everyone, but has been around the game for a while.

“I’d venture to say gambling is a big issue in our whole country right now. I remember back in the 80′s, FBI agents used to come in and talk to our team and I was amazed. They threw out estimates of what they thought was going on in Iowa City in those times,” Ferentz said.

The 26 student-athletes involved from Iowa are from the football, baseball, men’s basketball, men’s track and field and men’s wrestling teams. State laws and NCAA rules have evolved, and Hawkeye leaders are doing their best to stay on top of changes.

“When we get a rule change, we operate in those parameters and we go hard. We’re in our compliance office and we actually script things out,” Iowa men’s wrestling head coach Tom Brands explained.

The coaches are also racing to keep up.

“This is a crazy world we’re living in and I love it,” Brands said. “You cannot have your head in the sand or you will get ditched.”