Alabama Baseball Coach Fired for Betting Connection

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The week began with a  “suspicious wagering activity” warning that triggered an emergency hold on all bets placed on Alabama baseball by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. The week is ending with the firing of Alabama head baseball coach Brad Bohannon.

Bohannon was fired by Alabama for “violating the standards, duties, and responsibilities expected of University employees,” as described in a statement issued by the Alabama athletic department.

The suspicious wagering activity was first flagged by U.S. Integrity, a Las Vegas-based company that monitors wagers across the country for suspicious bets. Two bets placed at the BetMGM sportsbook at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati sounded the alarm.

The investigation this week revealed video from the BetMGM sportsbook that identified the bettor of the two suspicious bets. It indicated that they were communicating with Bohannon at the time the suspicious wagers were placed.

Shortly before Alabama’s game last Friday against Louisiana State (LSU), Bohannon replaced his scheduled starting pitcher, Luke Holman, with reliever Hagan Banks. This was also around the time the bets were placed and Bohannon was communicating with the bettor.

There is no evidence that any athlete with the Alabama baseball team is involved.

“The University of Alabama has taken swift action after information about baseball sports wagering activity was questioned by industry regulators,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement. “Ensuring the integrity of athletic competition is our highest priority, and for that purpose the SEC monitors gambling activity through its relationship with U.S. Integrity and has done so since 2018. There must be zero tolerance for activity that puts into question the integrity of competition.”

Along with prohibiting those involved in NCAA sports from participating in sports wagering, the NCAA specifically prohibits “providing information to individuals involved in or associated with any type of sports wagering activities concerning intercollegiate, amateur, or professional athletics competition.”

Jason Jackson has been named the interim head coach for Alabama baseball. He and Bohannon are being sued by a former player for alleged mistreatment of an arm injury in 2019.

The Future of College Sports Wagering

Along with Ohio, which suspended all wagering on Alabama baseball on Monday, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have also issued wager bans on Alabama baseball. None of the three states have committed to a time line for lifting the ban. But it isn’t expected to have a reach beyond this one school or one sport.

“The system worked,” said Ronnie Johns, the chair of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. “We have to protect the integrity of sports wagering, or the system will crater.”

Johns also went on to say that no one involved with LSU has been implicated, and the suspicious wagers in question all took place in Ohio, not Louisiana.

For those who are in favor of legal sports betting on amateur sports, the speed in which the suspicious activity was flagged and the swift action by Alabama will be a victory. It points to the success of the safeguards in place. The no-tolerance approach by the Alabama athletic director will be seen as a deterrence.

There have been point-shaving scandals in the past involving college coaches and athletes. But none that were resolved this quickly.

Those who are against legal sports betting on amateur sports will blame the prevalence and availability of sports betting for this incident. It’s why a number of states that have legal sports betting still ban wagering on in-state college teams and games. Even more states with legalized sports betting do not allow player proposition bets for college sports. 

Ohio legalized sports betting in January of this year and does not restrict betting on college sports. Alabama does not have legal sports betting, there are no commercial casinos in the state, and it is one of just five U.S. states that does not have a lottery.

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