How Does the NCAA Find Out If an Athlete Has Been Betting?

This year’s NCAA Tournament had plenty of surprises, but none more shocking than the fact that Virginia Commonwealth University became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed.

The win put VCU in the sweet spot of a Regional Final against either North Carolina or Kansas, two of the best regular season conference tournament winners in the country. It would be the first of perhaps many big upsets for a team that hadn’t already made a deep run in the tournament.

So how did the NCAA find out about the betting scandal that shook the college basketball world?

Below, we’ll walk you through the entire investigation, including the specific instances where Virginia Commonwealth was found to have broken the rules.

How Did The NCAA Come To Know About The Scandal?

The NCAA learned about the scandal via an in-game report during the second half of the North Carolina-Duke game on March 15th. Just seconds before the report aired, some members of Duke’s coaching staff were caught on film discussing the game’s over/under and whether or not to bet on it. (The video has since been deleted from the social media accounts of the staff members involved, but Fox Sports has an archived copy.)

While we don’t know for sure, it’s likely that somebody leaked the report to the media. That way, the NCAA wouldn’t have to rely on a single camera angle to verify its contents. (It’s also worth noting that a member of the media organization covering the tournament, Jake Fischer of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, broke the news about the report in his Friday column.)

What Were The Specific Rules Violations?

A thorough review of the video footage from the game and interviews with witnesses and people familiar with the case revealed the following:

  • Shooting/Hitting From the Bench: During pregame introductions, head coach Kevin Keatts points out that the Patriots have 13 players on their bench. That’s one more than the allowed 12 under NCAA rules. This is also a violation of the spirit of the game and can lead to further sanctions, such as extra practices or a loss of playing time.
  • Gambling: Before the start of the game, members of the Duke coaching staff are seen discussing multiple-team bets on games that they coach and/or recruit for. The video also shows members of the coaching staff placing bets on games that they are not directly involved with. (In these situations, the head coach is considered to be the “agent” of the team, and the rest of the staff are considered to be “consultants.”)
  • Failure To Disclose: The video also shows members of the Duke coaching staff lying about the nature of their discussions regarding betting. (Specifically, they claimed that they weren’t discussing any games when in fact they were.)
  • Lack Of Candor: Another rule violation that was uncovered during the investigation is that members of the Virginia Commonwealth coaching staff didn’t adequately disclose certain facts to the NCAA. (For example, when questioned by the NCAA, some coaches failed to note that an assistant had been suspended for lying about receiving gifts.)
  • Hiring A Relative: After the game, the NCAA informed the university that it considers it a recruiting violation for any school to hire a coach’s relative. (In this case, the coach’s brother Craig Keatts is listed as an assistant coach for the Patriots.)
  • Foster Parenting: During his press conference following the game, Kevin Keatts called the NCAA’s investigation “a little more than an inquisition,” insinuating that the organization is acting as a parental figure toward his team. He went on to say, “I’m grown man, I’ll say what I want to say, but they’re acting like my parents.”

What Are The Potential Consequences Of Violating These Rules?

The consequences of violating the above rules could be significant, especially since there are already rules in place to prevent this from happening in the first place.

For instance, if a coach or an athletic department employee were to bet on a game that they are involved in, they could be banned from recruiting in that state. In addition, schools that violate the above rules could lose scholarships, have their win-loss records voided, face additional NCAA restrictions, or even lose a game or win a game that is subsequently vacated by the NCAA.

This is primarily because the NCAA monitors coaches and schools for potential violations, and there are already established processes in place to prevent this kind of thing from happening. The NCAA monitors potential rule breakers via a process called “Coaches Clearing House,” and if they are found to be in violation of any of the above rules, it will put their job security at risk. (A notable exception is if the coach is of Italian descent, as that is considered a “merito” and not a “violation.”)

How Is Coach Keatts’ Job Security At Risk?

Athletic directors and coaches can be placed in a difficult position when dealing with the media and fans regarding a rules violation. On one hand, there’s an obvious desire to avoid any kind of scandal, especially one that could damage the program. On the other, there’s a need to maintain some degree of transparency regarding the rules and what has occurred.

In this case, the coach has a point. He did, after all, admit to the rules violations, and he’d much rather deal with the backlash from the media and his team than have his job threatened. That being said, he’s hardly in a position to complain about the NCAA’s investigation. If anything, he should be thanking the governing body for taking the time to investigate a situation that he created.

What About The Athletic Director?

The athletic director is considered to be the head coach’s employer, and he too could be in trouble if the head coach is ever found to be in a rules violation. In this case, there’s an added weight of responsibility since he too was responsible for overseeing the team. Essentially, the athletic director was acting as the head coach’s boss, and they both could be held accountable. In some cases, the athletic director could be terminated along with the head coach.

However, in this case, the head coach is the only one that broke the rules and he admitted to his wrongdoing. While the athletic director should have known about the violations and prevented them from happening, there’s no evidence that he did anything wrong.

Has This Scandal Caused Any Changes To The NCAA?

This year’s scandal was an important event for the NCAA and its rules regarding gambling, particularly since it came from the most recognizable brand in college basketball. In the wake of the scandal, the NCAA introduced a new protocol that will require all coaches and athletic directors to undergo online anti-corruption education. This is to prevent future scandals from happening.

In addition, the NCAA is now doing more random drug testing and could also decide to expand its testing to include other prohormones, such as anabolics and growth hormones. These are all examples of ways that the association is trying to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.

While this year’s tournament was a memorable one for upsets and shocking results, it’s also proven to be a watershed moment in the history of college basketball. With all its heartache, the 2019 NCAA Tournament was a necessary step toward ensuring that college basketball cleans up its act once and for all.