Under National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) rules, student-athletes are prohibited from placing, accepting, or soliciting a wager (for themselves or others) on two types of activities (1) any institutional practice and (2) any level of competition (intercollegiate, amateur, or professional) in a sport where the NCAA organizes a national championship. Thus, NCAA student-athletes are prohibited from wagering not only on popular collegiate sports such as football and basketball, but also on niche collegiate sports like synchronized swimming as well as professional leagues such as the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB. This rule applies even if the student-athlete attends a school that does not have a particular NCAA sport.
Although numerous sports are considered off-limits, there are a small number that student-athletes can still place bets on because they are non-NCAA sports, such as NASCAR, horseracing, and UFC.
How Bets Are Defined Under NCAA Rules
Anytime something is put at risk, such as cash, dinner, or a tangible item, in exchange for the possibility of gaining another item of value based on the result of a sporting event, you are potentially violating NCAA sports wagering rules. Examples of sports wagering include, but are not limited to:
- Fantasy leagues
- March Madness brackets
- Super Bowl squares
- Sports betting apps
- Online sports bets
- Sports pools
- Parlay and prop bets
- Live in-game betting
- Single-game sports bets
In simple terms, when a student-athlete agrees to give up an item of value (e.g., cash, shirt dinner) and there is an opportunity to receive a prize contingent on the outcome of a sporting event, a potential NCAA violation may arise.
Sharing Information Can Also Result in a Violation
Even if an athlete doesn't directly place a bet, it is a violation of NCAA sports wagering rules to share information about their team or any other team for sports wagering purposes. Information that could be used for gambling purposes includes:
- Athlete injuries
- Athlete disciplinary actions
- Team strategy
- Team morale
Potential Penalties for NCAA Sports Betting Violations
When a student-athlete violates sport wagering prohibitions, they will lose part, if not all, of their athletic eligibility subject to an appeal to the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. Penalties will be determined on a case-by-case basis as detailed in the division's specific reinstatement guidelines. For example, the Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement’s ineligibility periods are as follows:
- If you engage in activities to influence the outcome of your own game or knowingly provide information to individuals involved in sports betting activities, you'll potentially face permanent loss of collegiate eligibility in all sports. (The same rule applies to student-athletes who wager on their own games or on other sports at their own schools.)
- If you wager on your own sport at another school, education on sports wagering rules and prevention will be required as a condition of reinstatement, and you'll potentially lose 50% of one season of eligibility.
- For all other wagering-related violations, the dollar value of the wagers will determine the potential penalties:
- Wagers of $200 or less result in sports wagering rules and prevention education.
- Wagers of $201 to $500 result in a loss of 10% of a season of eligibility, plus rules and prevention education.
- Wagers of $501 to $800 result in a loss of 20% of a season of eligibility, plus rules and prevention education.
- Wagers of $800 or more result in a loss of 30% of a season of eligibility, plus rules and prevention education.
- Wagers that "greatly exceed" the $800 threshold will lead reinstatement staff to consider whether additional loss of eligibility, including permanent ineligibility, is appropriate.
NCAA Rules Take Precedence Over State Gambling Restrictions
In May 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States gave states the power to legalize and regulate U.S. sports betting as they saw fit. Currently, 34 states and Washington D.C. have legalized sports betting either in-person or online, meaning many college athletes are surrounded by peers who regularly engage in sports betting.
Student-athletes must always follow NCAA rules to protect their eligibility to compete. Even if state law makes betting permissible, NCAA rules take precedence.
The NCAA offers an in-person and online sports wagering gambling harm prevention program to help student-athletes better understand what decisions can place their athletic careers at risk.