Varun Maheshwari ‘23
On February 10th, Davidson—following in the footsteps of institutions like Indiana University and St. Joseph’s—announced a new policy prohibiting “sports betting or wagering of any kinds of tangible items’”on Davidson athletic events.
In his school-wide email sent out on February 10th, Athletic Director Chris Clunie ‘06 stated, “That kind of wagering runs contrary to the integrity and sense of community that is so critical to Davidson. This new policy establishes clear guidelines and re-emphasizes not just athletics done right but also a community that does athletics right.”
Although North Carolina has not officially legalized sports betting, the state legislature passed a bill that would legalize it. The bill, S.B. 154, is pending executive action before implementation. When asked why Davidson chose to implement this new policy, Clunie stated, “St. Joe’s put out a policy; as you know, in Pennsylvania sports betting is legal, and they put together a policy that we built our framework on. [St Joe’s] wanted to preserve the sanctity of their scholar-athletes. When I shared that with [President Carol Quillen], she was fully on board [to do it here].”
This new policy does not ban non-athlete students from sports betting in general, rather it simply puts a hold on betting on Davidson athletics specifically. In the United States alone, about $150 billion circulates per year based on sports betting even though the practice is only legal in 13 states (New York, Pennsylvania and Nevada being the three biggest states), according to GlobeNewswire.
Clunie added, “Personally, betting is [students’] prerogative, it’s something they choose to do and something that is becoming a lot more popular in America and around the world. You can still do the March Madness bracket, fantasy football etc., but we don’t want anyone to put skin in our games.”
As a small school where students and athletes are in constant communication, allowing Davidson students to bet on those athletes is inherently more problematic than it might be at other schools.
“Davidson fits the exact situation I could see [sports betting] becoming problematic.” Track and Field team member Nick Peeples ‘21 explained, “Theoretically, a player on a Davidson team could realize their post-collegiate career is no longer [viable], so they [might] illegally accept a cut of a betting group on campus.”
With the legalization of sports betting in North Carolina, Davidson athletes will likely see more in the media about betting lines, odds, and spreads. For some athletes these spreads can give them some insight into how they are perceived to perform and even motivate them to defy odds.
“We played St. Bonaventure […] we weren’t favored to win the game […] we ended up winning,” basketball forward Mike Jones ‘23 explained. “That’s always nice to win a game you’re not necessarily intended to win.”
The Athletic Department implemented this new policy in order to stay ahead of the curve, according to Clunie. Schools such as Indiana University and St. Joseph’s introduced an almost identical policy to Davidson because they did not want the fiery culture of sports betting to hinder the level of play and integrity of their athletes. Similarly, Davidson teams conduct pre-season meetings with the athletic administration to explain the seriousness behind sports betting regarding themselves and their teammates. As Division I athletes, the consequences are extremely severe for all sports and include losing NCAA eligibility and, more Davidson-specific, appearing in front of the Honor Council.
Matt Versichelli ‘22 offered insight as a non-athlete student, saying, “Personally, I am not aware that athletes here know of betting lines for their games or even care. I’m sure that the players just play for a win or loss.”
Basketball player Hyunjung Lee ‘23 echoed Versichelli’s sentiment.
“No, I never think about [betting lines].” Lee adamantly stated. “I won’t [miss on purpose], I’d just make my shot.”
Clunie mentioned that due to the large role the Honor Code plays at Davidson, the athletes here apply that code to their athletic lives as well as their academic ones. Additionally, with the ongoing discussion about paying NCAA athletes or athletes being able to use their name-image likeness for monetary purposes, the role of sports betting on college campuses becomes a bigger issue.
“Something is gonna change; in some form or fashion there will be compensation based around whatever structure will be put in place. It’s such a complex issue […] it will change because it needs to change,” asserted Clunie. This ‘hot-button topic’ is something the North Carolina legislature, the NCAA, and Davidson Athletics will have to deal with in the future. For now, the integrity of the Honor Code continues to empower the school as it eliminates the option to influence Davidson games in its entirety with this new policy on sports betting.