Iowa State opens practices under cloud of gambling investigation and questions at QB

FILE - Jack Trice Stadium is viewed before an NCAA college football game between Iowa State and...
FILE - Jack Trice Stadium is viewed before an NCAA college football game between Iowa State and West Virginia, Nov. 5, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State University said it is aware of online sports wagering allegations involving approximately 15 of its athletes from the sports of football, wrestling and track & field in violation of NCAA rules. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)(Charlie Neibergall | AP)
Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 5:13 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AMES, Iowa (AP) — A gambling scandal has left Iowa State with a quarterback quandary.

Hunter Dekkers, last year’s starter, is among three current or former Cyclones players facing criminal charges. He is not participating in preseason camp.

That leaves redshirt freshman Rocco Becht, true freshman J.J. Kohl and junior college transfer Tanner Hughes vying to be Dekkers’ replacement at quarterback, at least for now.

“We’ve seen a bunch of different quarterbacks have great success here,” coach Matt Campbell said Friday as he enters his eighth season. “We need those guys to lead and take care of the football. And those guys have a lot of confidence in being able to do all those things.”

Gambling investigations at Iowa and Iowa State have resulted in criminal charges against seven current or former athletes, including ex-Hawkeyes basketball player Ahron Ulis and Dekkers. Documents showed a DraftKings account controlled by Dekkers placed more than 360 online bets worth more than $2,799. Dekkers bet on 26 Iowa State athletic events, including a 2021 football game against Oklahoma State in which he did not play.

Offensive lineman Dodge Sauser was also named in the investigation, as well as former Iowa State defensive lineman Enyi Uwazurike, a current member of the Denver Broncos who was suspended by the NFL recently for gambling.

Each is accused in the complaints of tampering with records related to an Iowa Criminal Division investigation into sports gambling. Current athletes also face a loss of eligibility for violating NCAA gambling rules.

Campbell expressed uncertainly as to whether other Cyclones could be named in the gambling probe.

“This is not an Iowa State investigation. This is a NCAA and a legal matter,” Campbell said. “I think our leadership team here has done an incredible job of what they can tell us, telling us.”

Dekkers’ absence will have the biggest impact this season. He threw for 3,044 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Iowa State finished 4-8 and 1-8 in the Big 12 – snapping a string of five straight winning season, the school’s longest such streak since the 1920s.

Becht is the only one of the three backups who appeared in a game last fall, completing seven of 15 passes for 65 yards, with zero touchdowns and an interception. The 6-foot-7 Kohl from nearby Ankeny enrolled at Iowa State in the spring. Hughes threw for 23 touchdowns as a sophomore at Butte College, with just three interceptions.

“I feel like all those guys have a skill set that is similar,” Cyclone receiver Jaylin Noel said. “Obviously, J.J. is huge, but he can also move a little bit. Rocco is still mobile. He’s a guy who can get around the field. I feel like all their arm talents are similar.”

Campbell joked that he might not name a starter until November. Iowa State’s opener is Sept. 2 against Northern Iowa.

“One of the things that probably excited me the most was what I watched from Rocco,” Campbell said. “Rocco really grew through the (2022) football season. By mid-point of the season he took over the No. 2 position and then really put himself in position to get into football games. When he got into games, there were a lot really of positive things that occurred.”

The Cyclones lost eight of their final nine games last season and are faced with a rebuilding project as the Big 12 welcomes BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida this season. Iowa State was picked to finish 10th in a preseason media poll.

“Every football season, every team in America is going to have some sort of adversity,” Campbell said. “Our adversity has come a little bit earlier.”

Depending on how the gambling investigation plays out, that adversity could linger for months.

“The culture of our program is what’s going to get us through this next season,” offensive lineman Jarrod Hufford said. “How we are as a team is going to get us through anything.”

Campbell agreed.

“Part of what I love about being a college football coach is the growth of young men to men, 18 to 22 years old,” he said. “Somebody says, ‘Is this a culture issue?’ The issue at hand is a society issue. And the reality of it is, society issues are always going to challenge the culture, whether it’s your family culture or your football culture.

“What you’re always constantly trying to do is educate your young people to make great decisions and put them in the best position to be successful and become the best men that they can possibly be.”