On May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down a federal law that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling.
While this decision does not officially legalize commercial sports gambling nationwide, it gives individual states the option of doing so if they wish.
Eight of the 11 states that are home to teams in the Big Ten Conference have put forward legislation to legalize sports gambling, but only two of those states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have actually passed bills.
Currently, Nebraska has not put forward any legislation to legalize sports gambling.
While the NCAA currently prohibits their athletes from gambling, the decision could still have a profound impact on its sports, specifically football.
The most impactful change it could cause is the release of weekly injury reports, something that is not currently required by the NCAA. Many coaches prefer not to disclose who is unavailable for upcoming games because of both privacy concerns and gamesmanship. With sports gambling legalized, it could become a requirement to aid oddsmakers to set more accurate lines on the game.
Whether coaches will have to give accurate weekly injury reports remains to be seen. Many coaches use HIPAA, a federal law instated to keep medical information private, as a reason to not disclose injuries.
Adjusting to the potential new laws was a frequent topic at Big Ten Media Days in July.
“We've had a lot of discussion about the changes in gambling that will obviously occur in the coming years,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said during his media appearance. “We need to continue to educate them about the challenges associated with gambling and the importance of the integrity of the game.”
In regards to injury reports, Delany was a proponent of providing weekly “availability” reports.
“I don't call it an injury report as much as I think about it as player availability,” he said. “The availability of personnel is critical to people who are interested in gambling, legally or illegally.”
Coaches in the Big Ten are currently divided on the issue of legalized sports betting. Some, like Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck, are supportive of it.
“I'm all for it,” Fleck said at media days. “I think that [an availability report] creates different game planning. It gives you a better advantage. But you're also giving somebody an advantage, so it's an equal playing field. I think teams have the right to know that.”
Others, like Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, are staunch advocates against it.
“Don't associate with gamblers, avoid it like the plague,” is what Harbaugh said he told his team about the matter. “Don't walk away from that, run.”
While Harbaugh was against the idea of gambling, he did say that he was fine with disclosing a weekly injury report.
Other Big Ten coaches, such as Rutgers’ Chris Ash emphasized the importance of educating their players and staff about the subject.
“You have to continue to educate what are the potential pitfalls and issues that could come up surrounding it, and make sure that they make the right decisions,” Ash said. “In the state of New Jersey, obviously gambling is a big deal, and people are constantly trying to find information about your football team and injuries.”
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald echoed these statements.
“I think it's, first and foremost, important that we educate our guys and the understanding of the issues that surround gambling and understand from a standpoint of what may end up happening to them in dorms, people asking them questions that maybe they've never been asked before,” Fitzgerald said about the matter.
In regards to providing an injury report, Fitzgerald said he is also fine with the idea as long as coaches are honest about it.
“We have an injury report at Northwestern that we've done for a number of years,” Fitzgerald said. “I've been accused of sometimes being honest and sometimes being less than honest. If we move forward to where we have to have a fully transparent conference-wide or national one, I'd have no problem with that, as long as we adhere to it.”
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost talked back in May about the subject with KETV.
“Decisions like that one are way above my pay grade and being decided by people a lot smarter than me,” Frost told Matt Lothrop. “Not being a part of things like gambling is an important lesson that everybody has to learn. We make sure we monitor our guys no matter what decision is made and make sure they are doing the right thing.”
Currently, no new rules have been proposed by the NCAA to adjust to potential and actual legal changes around the country. The 2018 college football season kicks off Saturday, Aug. 25.