CHARLOTTE, N.C. — John Swofford admitted at the ACC Football Kickoff on Wednesday morning that he doesn’t know much about gambling.
With that said, the Commissioner of the ACC isn’t fond of gambling being associated with college athletics.
“I may be one of the most naive people in the world about gambling, quite honestly,” Swofford said at The Westin Charlotte. “I can’t even tell you the lingo that goes with it, quite frankly. But I know it can be incredibly problematic for the integrity of our games. I don’t like the optics of gambling in college sports.”
In May, the Supreme Court opened the door for states to legalize sports betting, striking down a 1992 federal law that effectively prohibited most states from legalizing it.
Swofford doesn’t know how that will impact college athletics but says he is concerned about protecting the student-athletes and integrity of college sports.
“I think the ultimate question with us is how do you protect the players and the integrity of the game, and what’s different now that some things are legal from when it was illegal, and what does that change,” he said. “But the ultimate question is how do we protect our players… We’re in ten states, we have schools in ten states, so it’s going to be challenging because some states will pass it and others won’t, I feel sure.
“I don’t know what legalizing it — I don’t know how much it changes everything, and I’m not sure anybody does. We’ve talked about this at our commissioners’ meetings. … I think we’re going to have to see how it plays out some.”
Swofford expects there will be a type of national “injury” report at this time next year, implemented to keep gamblers away from college programs, players and doctors.
“I think that’s critically important, and would include not only injuries but if there’s disciplinary action where a player is suspended for a game or for whatever reason, that would need to be a part of it, as well,” Swofford said. “And I think that reduces to some degree people you don’t really want coming around players and managers and doctors and anybody associated with the program, coaches, trying to get information in another kind of way, in an underhanded kind of way.
“My general feeling, and I sense that our coaches’ general feeling is the same, that that’s probably something that needs to happen on a national basis. I don’t think it’ll happen for this season. I suspect it’ll be for next season, but I’ll be surprised if that’s not in place.”
Swofford also said the ACC will not release injury reports this year as it has for the last decade.
“We have had not a rule but a gentlemen’s agreement among our coaches to share publicly injury information,” Swofford said. “We were the only conference that was doing that, and ironically, we decided not to do it this year, so we won’t be doing it this year.”
Swofford feels the ACC will have to work its way through the gambling issue, just like it has with alcohol sales and other issues in the past.
“It took us years to — and having some of our schools allow alcohol sales, for us as a conference to do it at our championships, and we moved into it gradually,” Swofford said. “Quite frankly, we have fewer incidents related to alcohol at our championships now, when we control the sale of the alcohol, than we did when we didn’t, and supposedly there wasn’t any alcohol.
“So gambling could work out the same way. I’m not saying it won’t. I think we just have to plow into this, understand it as best we can, and see if it really is as — if you’re really opposed to it, see if it’s as bad as we really think it is, because I don’t think we know. But it still gets back to — even if it’s okay, we’re still going to want to do whatever we need to do in order to protect the integrity of the game itself.
“I don’t know if it’s legal, does it make it a little easier for a player to — or a coach or a trainer or a manager to share information they shouldn’t share? It’s got a lot of tentacles to it. But the answer might be ultimately, you know, this hasn’t made a bit of difference. But I still don’t really like the optics of gambling on college students.”