Small bets

The fallout continues from the investigation into sports betting by athletes at Iowa colleges. The latest: Owen O’Brien, a graduate assistant for the University of Iowa football team, has pleaded guilty to underage gambling.

did not admit to gambling on specific events

The state claims that O’Brien gambled at least $3,047, spread across more than 350 wagers. Of those, 11 bets were on University of Iowa sports and three of those were on football games last season while he was on staff. It was not revealed if O’Brien bet on or against Iowa and he himself did not admit to gambling on specific events.

If O’Brien’s case had gone to trial and he had been found guilty, he could have received a much as a two-year prison sentence. Instead, he will only be fined $645.

Gambling violations rampant in Iowa

In May, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University announced they were investigating over 40 student-athletes combined for illegal sports betting. One of the highest-profile athletes involved was Iowa State’s starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers, who admitted to wagering over $2,799 on 26 Iowa State sporting events, including a 2021 football game against Oklahoma State in which he was the backup QB.

Dekkers was originally charged with tampering with records, likely related to using someone else’s account to place bets, but later pled guilty to underage gambling, like O’Brien. He has been away from the team to deal with his legal issues.

one was against his own team

Iowa State defensive defensive lineman Isaiah Lee also left the team after being charged with tampering with records. He allegedly placed 115 bets totaling just $885, but one was against his own team in a game versus Texas in 2021, a game in which he played.

Among the players charged with betting offenses is former Iowa State Cyclone and Denver Broncos defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike, who allegedly bet on his school’s games when he was a student and on NFL games as a pro. He is on indefinite suspension from the league for violating its gambling policy.

The times, they are a changin’

Early this year, student-athletes could have faced a permanent ban from the NCAA for just about any gambling rules violations, but the NCAA’s Division I legislative committee lessened the penalties this summer, acknowledging that it doesn’t make sense to bring the hammer down on “young people who have made mistakes,” particularly considering the proliferation of sports betting in the US.

Certainly, manipulating games for betting purposes or providing insider information is still a big no-no, coming with a season-long ban. But betting on another school’s game in their own sport is now just a half-year suspension. Other, lesser, violations have shorter suspensions or mandatory gambling education.

The NCAA also plans to push state legislators to craft laws to better protect student-athletes from negative influences and pressure resulting from sports betting.