Two bets on a baseball game were placed last Friday in the sportsbook at Great American Ballpark, which sits by the river in Cincinnati. A street adjoining the stadium is named for Pete Rose, still banned by baseball for having bet on baseball. That’s a weird way for a story involving a game between Alabama and LSU to begin, but we’re reminded daily that college sports are the deepest well of weirdness.
The bets were large enough that those overseeing Ohio’s legal wagering said, “Hmmm, those bets are large.” On Monday, ESPN’s David Purdum reported that the state stopped accepting wagers on Alabama baseball. On Wednesday, New Jersey announced a similar ban. On Thursday, Alabama fired Brad Bohannon, its baseball coach of five seasons.
(Local angle: Bohannon was born in Rome, Ga. He graduated from Berry College. He played baseball at Georgia Tech. He was hired by Bama after a decade as an assistant at Kentucky, which saw its basketball Wildcats banned from playing the 1952-53 season after some of Adolph Rupp’s players admitted taking money from gamblers.)
From Purdum: “Sportsbook surveillance video indicated that the person who placed the bets was communicating with Bohannon at the time.”
LSU is ranked No. 1. It was favored in the game, which was played in Baton Rouge. Alabama’s scheduled starting pitcher was scratched due to injury. The outsized bets were on LSU, which won 8-6. Alabama’s grounds for firing Bohannon were – quoting a university statement – “among other things, violating the standards, duties and responsibilities required of university employees.”
The NCAA issued a statement of its own, saying it “takes sports wagering very seriously and is … committed to the integrity of competition.” If any organization knows about integrity, it’s – sarcasm alert – the NCAA.
This comes at a time when, also according to ESPN, 57 Colorado players have entered the transfer portal since Deion Sanders became the Buffaloes’ head coach. This comes after a season that saw Stetson Bennett, the former walk-on/transfer, lead Georgia to a second consecutive national title while banking $1.3 million in NIL money, his being a rags-to-riches tale with a decidedly 21st Century spin.
This comes after a winter that saw, hours after the Bulldogs celebrated their latest title, offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy killed in an Athens crash. Police determined LeCroy was driving 104 mph; her blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit. Willock’s father has sued the university for $2 million. Defensive lineman Jalen Carter, taken No. 9 overall in the NFL draft, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of racing and reckless driving.
This comes after a winter that saw a New Mexico State basketball player – Mike Peake, once a Georgia Bulldog – shoot and kill a New Mexico student in what police deemed self-defense. (Peake was himself wounded.) New Mexico State would later suspend its program and fire its coach after allegations of hazing of a sexual nature were made by a player against teammates.
This comes after a winter that saw Alabama basketball player Darius Miles arrested for the fatal shooting of a woman downtown Tuscaloosa. The gun was delivered, perhaps inadvertently, by then-teammate Brandon Miller, who would be named the national player of the year. Miller faces no charges. Miles awaits trial for murder.
This comes in a week when the College Football Playoff, which has nothing to do with the NCAA, announced the format for its expanded tournament. The first 12-team playoff will be staged in 2024 into 2025. Games will be played on every day of the week except Sunday.
This is where we old folks shake our grizzled heads and say, “It never used to be this way.” Which isn’t entirely true – the Kentucky betting scandal happened before I was born – but close enough. I’d love to offer, via the wisdom that (sometimes) comes with age, cogent commentary as to why things are the way they are. Alas, I’ve got nothing.
Not everything, I concede, was better in the old days. But – here I’m repeating myself, for which I apologize – I do wonder: If I hadn’t spent half a century watching college sports, would I care about college sports?
Give me another year or two. Maybe I’ll have an answer then. Maybe.
The above is part of a regular exercise available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
How do you sign up? Go to the AJC.com home page. Click on “newsletters” at the top right. Click on “Sports Daily.” You’ll need to enter your email address. Thanks, folks.
About the Author