Things I know, and things I think I know:
Some college football ideas strike me as a waste of time.
A prime example: Big Ten athletic directors’ recent proposal to create a first-ever national injury reporting system in reaction to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows states to legalize sports gambling.
While a uniform reporting policy is a noble notion, there are gaping holes that ultimately make such a creation a long shot. The biggest hole: How would programs navigate student privacy laws — specifically, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Student-athletes would have to consent to have their injury information released publicly. It’s difficult to imagine everyone being OK with that.
Some student-athletes still are on their parents’ insurance. Bottom line, we’re not talking about professional athletes.
Plus, who would be responsible for policing and taking action against a coach/school that fails to uphold the integrity of the weekly injury report? The NCAA doesn't seem equipped for the task. Perhaps it could be handled at the conference level. But good luck getting all conferences on the same page.
However, I fully understand the concerns of Big Ten athletic directors who brace for the arrival of mainstream gaming and work to safeguard against potential abuses. Kudos to the Big Ten for being proactive. Consider: Nebraska within five years could potentially be the only state in the Big Ten to not have legalized sports betting. At least that’s how Brendan Bussmann, an expert on the matter, sees it all unfolding.
For each of the past eight decades, there has been at least one gambling-related scandal in college sports. In that regard, you wonder what might transpire as more and more states legalize betting. I admit to being a bit of an alarmist on the issue.
Bussmann, director of government affairs for a leading gaming and hospitality firm in Las Vegas, says my fears are unwarranted. He says as gambling is legalized at the state level, regulation will increase. That could solve many potential issues.
“States can say, 'Hey, how do we get a solid hold of this so we can actually take action against somebody who tries to do something nefarious?’” he said.
A Lincoln Southeast graduate, Bussmann thinks NCAA institutions should proactively work with regulators in places such as Nevada, where gambling has been legal for decades.
Plenty of people understand gambling at a high level. But many don’t. As gambling becomes increasingly mainstream in the U.S., folks will better understand the dangers.
“I find it remarkable that with one Supreme Court decision, it has completely turned the world upside down and now all of a sudden the NCAA feels a need to regulate and monitor this when they should’ve been doing it … for the last 25 years,” says Bussmann, who is an excellent source on the topic because of his background in college football. He served as a Nebraska director of football operations under Frank Solich and still keeps close tabs on the program.
Bussmann said Nebraska, during his time in the program, would try to make sure student-athletes, coaches and support personnel understood potential gambling-related issues, such as a person outside the program seeking injury information. Experts in the gambling arena would educate the team, Bussmann says.
“NCAA institutions need to beef up their protocol and understand it’s first about education,” he said. “But it’s not about hiring more (NCAA) compliance people. It’s making sure your people are educated enough internally. It’s making sure your sports information people, athletic medicine people and other key support staff are on top of what’s going on and are very transparent in what they’re allowed to do.
“I’m the last person who’s going to want to see any harm done when it comes to gaming. And that stems from extensive research I’ve done throughout my career within the industry on the responsible gaming issue, and setting up programs that make sure people who do fall through the cracks have a support system in place.
“But at the end of the day, this is about education, regulation and engagement of an activity that is already going on today.”
* Let’s stay on the gambling jag, as Nebraska actually received a sign of respect from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Respect? How about Westgate setting Nebraska’s early odds to win the Big Ten the same (40/1) as Iowa.
How about Westgate giving the Huskers better odds to win the conference than Northwestern and Purdue (80/1)?
It provides some balance to the prevalent woe-is-Nebraska discussion, if nothing else.
Of course, Ohio State (10/11) is the favorite, followed by Wisconsin (5/2), Michigan (4/1), Penn State (5/1) and Michigan State (12/1).
* Somebody made what I’m betting will turn out to be an excellent hire, as Brenden Stai has been named director of development for the Nebraska Athletic Development team.
According to its Twitter account, Nebraska Athletic Development is the home to the student-athlete experience fund, helping support 660 student-athletes.
Stai, a first-team All-American offensive guard for Nebraska in 1994, has an excellent blend of friendliness, charisma and passion for his alma mater. He'll also tell you some interesting stories from his NFL days.
A native of Yorba Linda, California, Stai combined with Zach Wiegert to give Nebraska one of the best right sides of the line in program history, as both were first-team All-Americans for the Huskers' 1994 national championship team. A lot of fans fondly remember those teams. And for those who don’t remember, they’ll surely believe Stai played a lead role because he still looks like he could start at right guard — no offense to the Huskers’ current group of big nasties.
* The Nebraska Greats Foundation will have its annual golf classic Friday at Kearney Country Club. Jerry Murtaugh, president of the foundation, has helped put together an excellent list of participants, including Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier and Eric Crouch.
The Nebraska Greats Foundation provides financial assistance to former Nebraska collegiate athletes who, as a result of a medical challenge, have exhausted both their insurance and personal resources. It’s a wonderful cause. Check out www.nebraskagreatsfoundation.org
By the way, Murtaugh is searching for recipients. He’s basically aching to help someone.
“What good is the money doing in the freaking bank? It needs to be used,” the former Husker linebacker great said.