With every passing college football season, it becomes more evident the power is shifting in collegiate sports. Last week, the Big Ten and Southeast Conference (SEC) announced the creation of a joint advisory group that will explore several issues of importance.
As powerful as the two conferences are, the Big Ten and SEC pulling in the same direction could make transformative changes in college sports. That could lead to a very different experience for sports betting apps and consumers.
With a unified Big Ten/SEC, what alterations might we see in college football and basketball, by far the most popular NCAA sports?
Sports Betting Changes to Protect College Athletes
The NCAA has become increasingly concerned over the growth of legal sports betting. The list of sports betting states grows every year, with North Carolina to soon launch its market in time for March Madness.
New sportsbooks with behemoth brand names, like ESPN BET and Fanatics, have entered the market to compete for the billions of dollars up for grabs. DraftKings and FanDuel jostle at the top of the heap of mobile sportsbooks (for now). Watching this with great interest, the NCAA recently came out against certain types of betting. In Ohio in early February, the NCAA and state governor teamed up to call for eliminating player prop bets on college sporting events.
The Big Ten and SEC have not officially declared their stance on college player props. But their announcement states that the joint advisory group will “address issues important to college athletes.” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said, “There are similar cultural and social impacts on our student-athletes, our institutions, and our communities because of the new collegiate athletics environment.”
It’s hard to imagine the conferences won’t research sports betting and its impact on student-athletes. If that means an alignment with the NCAA stance against college player prop bets, that could lead to fewer choices for sports bettors.
With college player props bets, users can wager on how many points a basketball player might score in an NCAA basketball game or how many yards a college quarterback may throw on a given Saturday.
NIL and Transfer Portal Guidelines
Regardless of where you fall on the issue of Name, Image, and Likeness rights, you can’t deny that NIL has changed college football and basketball. Players are now free to choose their schools (and compensation), much like coaches could for decades.
However, many fans, media, and college coaches have criticized the NCAA for neglecting NIL and the transfer portal. Should more guard rails be in place to govern how athletes can switch schools and uniforms?
If the SEC and Big Ten weigh in on those issues in the future, their combined influence could alter the transfer portal process and NIL.
If NIL and the transfer portal change, it could impact the balance of competitiveness in college sports. That can be a good or bad thing for sports bettors. Either way, consumers will need to pay attention.
Commitment to Responsible Gaming
We can try to imagine what the B1G and SEC may accomplish from this collaboration, but responsible gaming is one topic that will almost certainly be on the agenda. University presidents, coaches, alumni, and athletes are all interested in ensuring that it is safe to place wagers on college sports.
We’ll likely see the Big Ten and SEC unify for a commitment to responsible gaming practices. That means pledges for athletes, officials, school staff, and fans that address proper conduct. It means partnering closely with sportsbooks on RG resources.
Even More Power Conference Re-Alignment
Some observers speculate that the college landscape (fueled heavily by football and basketball) will see even more changes at the conference level. If these two behemoth conferences are working together to solve athletic issues now, how soon before we see a Big Ten/SEC merger?
Next season, the Big Ten will welcome four new schools from the former Pac 12. College football will never be the same once Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington join the Big Ten. The SEC will also soon welcome traditional gridiron powerhouses in Texas and Oklahoma.
If the future means fewer conferences, the Big Ten and SEC may be wise to collaborate rather than compete to the detriment of the other.
Imagine a future where the SEC is one “division” and the Big Ten another, and they play crossover games every year. With the dominant schools each have in their membership, the two could essentially rewrite the rules for scheduling and playoffs. That would lead to more interest in sports. Also, more bets and ways to win for consumers.
Improved Integration Between Schools, Sportsbooks, and Governance
As more states legalize sports betting, it makes sense that sports betting operators and athletic organizations will work to integrate systems to improve the product and increase protections.
We could see schools or conferences creating a new office of sports betting compliance to ensure that their programs are aligned with regulators. Top schools like Alabama and Michigan should ensure that data being created from games they play are accurate, that wagers are handled properly and safely, and that their athletes and students are safe.
In addition, conferences may be able to integrate with sportsbooks for access to exclusion lists, prohibit consumers flagged for bad behavior, and keep them from attending college sporting events.
The Big Ten and SEC are shaping the future of college athletics. The decisions they make together could also change the bets consumers can place. And the confluence of betting and college sports.