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Sports Gambling Comes to Campus; 49ers Get Political; No. 1 South Carolina Edges No. 2 Stanford

It wasn’t that long ago that no professional sports teams were located in Las Vegas. No NCAA events or conference championships were held there, either.

League and conference commissioners rightfully felt that the specter of gambling influences—the possibility of “fixing games” or of players and coaches betting on or against their teams—would threaten the integrity of their sports.

No more.

We have the Las Vegas Raiders in the NFL. The Las Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL. And the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA. We have the Pac-12 and countless other conferences holding their championships in Vegas.

Worse yet, we now have legalized gambling as an accepted, massively promoted part of the sports landscape…even on college campuses.

Four years ago the Supreme Court decided to let states legalize sports betting. Over 30 states have jumped on board. Most allow it online; some limit it to in-person only.

Gambling companies like Draft Kings and FanDuel have become household names. They’ve made a fortune by successfully converting casino customers and fantasy sports players into online gamblers.

And it’s completely out in the open. They run non-stop ads on pro and college sports telecasts featuring beautiful blonds and sports celebrities. They sponsor events and back statewide propositions to expand their reach.

Little oversight is being provided. State governments, cashing in on huge gambling taxes, require few protections for consumers, offer minimal resources to combat addiction, and basically allow the gambling industry to police itself.

Good luck with that.

A series of articles in the New York Times revealed the latest and perhaps most alarming part of this trend. Universities are partnering with betting companies, or sportsbooks, to introduce their students and fans to online gambling.

At places like Michigan State (above), LSU, Syracuse, Colorado, TCU and Maryland, athletic departments are being paid huge sponsorship fees (sometimes in seven figures) to promote gambling at their schools, where a large percentage of the target audience is underage.

The betting sites and platforms are promoted on stadium signage, school websites and billboards, at tailgates, in emails to students and fans, and on TV and other media.

At Colorado, huge stadium banners promote the “PointsBet” partnership. Every time someone downloads the PointsBet gambling app using the school’s promotional code, the athletic department collects $30.

And scores of students enjoy the rush of making bets on their I-phones, often drawn in by the promise of a “risk free” first bet where your money will be refunded if you lose, only to discover that the refund must be used to make another bet.

What, one might be tempted to ask, does this have to do with the mission of higher education?

Nothing, actually. The schools will use the money from these deals to pay coaching salaries, build facilities and recruit athletes.

Recognizing the widespread interest in gambling, many of my colleagues who write sports blogs—on sites like The Athletic, Pac-12 Hotline and Bald-Faced Truth—devote weekly columns to college football “picks against the spread.”

You’ll never see that on The Inside Track.

TV Time: Conference USA announced last week a new five-year media deal starting next season with ESPN and CBS Sports Network that will feature “most of its October football games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with a handful of games also planned for Thursday and Friday nights.”

Now tell us again how academics matter. How you’re concerned about “missed class time.”

49ers Get Political: According to a recent study, the 49ers are the NFL’s most expensive game experience for a family of four. The cost for four of the cheapest tickets in Levi’s Stadium, plus parking, two beers, two sodas and four hot dogs, is $1028.

The 49ers are the only NFL team in quadruple figures. One can only surmise that the cost of buying Santa Clara city council members has gone up.

Indeed. This year the team spent $4.5 million to support pro-49er council candidates, including $2.5 in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Mayor Lisa Gillmor.

Here’s a piece of advice for Jed York and company. It’s Thanksgiving week. How about giving $4.5 million to buy meals to feed the hungry in Santa Clara County?

World Cup Begins: Today the U.S. Men's Team begins World Cup play against Wales. It's the first World Cup match for the Americans since 2014, as the US failed to qualify in '18. The U.S. team is good, and young, so this match will be an indicator of how far we've come. I have to admit I like the World Cup ads featuring Jon Hamm as Santa Claus.

No. 1 Beats No. 2: Yesterday's South Carolina-Stanford women's basketball game was a classic matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2. For the second season in a row coach Dawn Staley bested her mentor, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, and brought the Gamecocks back from a big deficit. Stanford blew an 18-point lead last year in Columbia. This time the Cardinal had a 10-point lead at home at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Uncharacteristic, key mistakes down the stretch doomed Stanford. The Cardinal couldn't buy a bucket in the fourth quarter and then All-American Haley Jones missed the first of two free throws with 12 seconds remaining that would've given her team a three-point lead.

After the Gamecocks went ahead by two points in OT, Stanford had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Jones was called for a five-second inbounding violation. Then after SC missed a free throw, the Gamecocks got the rebound. After another free throw miss, Stanford's Kiki Iriafen gained possession and called a timeout the Cardinal didn't have.

I love Jones but it's becoming clear that Cameron Brink is Stanford's best player. Yesterday she had 25 points and four blocked shots before fouling out in a sensational performance.

Unfortunately, she played only 23 minutes due to foul trouble, which has been her Achilles Heel. If Brink can stay on the floor, I like Stanford's chances in a rematch with South Carolina in the Final Four.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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