A safe bet: Injury info tougher to find around ACC this year
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren was headed out the door when he was asked a follow-up question about an injured player.
Cracking a grin, Doeren jokingly responded, “I don’t have to tell you.”
He’s right, and that could mean injury information could be tougher to find around the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.
For the past decade, the ACC was the only major conference whose schools issued a list of injured players each week before league games, even if it was more of a gentlemen’s agreement and not an enforceable rule.
League coaches voted in May to stop issuing those reports , a move described by one oddsmaker as “counterintuitive” with sports wagering creeping further toward the mainstream. Coincidentally, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a federal law barring gambling on college sports was announced on the first day of the league’s spring meetings in Florida.
It seems everyone — the ACC included — is waiting to see if the NCAA develops a national injury-reporting standard, but that process could take some time. When asked for an update, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn referred to a statement the organization issued this summer saying it would study the impact of wagering on college sports.
The coaches say their move wasn’t about gambling but comes from a desire to not place their teams at a competitive disadvantage.
“We’re pretty paranoid, you know?” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said.
But one side effect could be oddsmakers, bettors and other interested parties having to “comb through the whispers” for valuable nuggets of information, said Pat Morrow, the head oddsmaker at Bovada. Oddsmakers regularly use information on player injuries to adjust their betting lines.
“It means we would have to pay attention to those whispers and the beat reporters a little bit more than we would in the past,” he said. He called the ACC’s move counterintuitive because “you’d think they’d want to be more transparent.”
But Jay Rood, vice president of the sports book for MGM Resorts in Las Vegas, downplayed the impact of the coaches’ decision. He described the report, which was issued just two days before kickoff, as “old news, a lot of times” and said sports books have “a lot of resources” to figure out who will play and who won’t.
Knowing about all those bumps and bruises can add up to big money: Caroline Ponseti of the American Gaming Association says sports books in Nevada — until this year, the only state that allowed betting on individual games — took $1.757 billion in wagers on pro and college football in 2017, up from $1.694 billion the year before.
The numbers across the nation are bound to increase this year because the court’s decision opens up legal sports wagering to more states, including some in or near the ACC’s 10-state footprint.
Betting on sports is now offered in Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia. The gaming control board in Pennsylvania — where ACC member Pittsburgh is located — approved regulations to allow sports betting to begin, and other states surely aren’t far behind.
With that in the background, how teams choose to disclose — or not disclose — injuries certainly will be worth monitoring throughout the season.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, a proponent of the injury report who said he “hates to be misleading to anybody,” openly discussed his team’s health in the lead-up to his team’s opener against Army. Doeren did talk about injured players during the news conference before his out-the-door quip.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he also favored releasing an injury report and has “no idea” what might be the benefit of not issuing one.
Maybe he should ask Fedora — who only mentions injuries to say he doesn’t talk about them and said he doesn’t see why he “should give your opponent any advantage whatsoever as they prepare for you.” But Fedora added he would comply with a national, standardized policy if one is adopted.
The Big Ten has asked the NCAA to consider developing such a system. Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey has said the Supreme Court’s decision could lead to one, and ACC Commissioner John Swofford expects one next year because “we’ll all understand (the wagering issues) going into next season.”
For now, though, it’s a transition year with ACC schools having no obligation to disclose anything about who is and isn’t healthy enough to play.
“The impetus really now is more about, you don’t want unsavory people coming around your program any more than they already do, trying to gain information,” Swofford said. “And if you just put the information out there, then that to some degree protects your players, your grad assistants, trainers, managers, that are around the program trying to find out something that’s not made public.”
A standard report would also be welcomed by those who set the point spreads as well as those who bet on them.
“Everyone benefits from this transparency of information,” Morrow said.