While several teams jockeyed for position over the past few weeks to gain a spot for the NCAA College Football playoffs, it's amazing how much publicity the University of Miami has gained while not cracking the top 50, let alone top 25. The Hurricanes horrible 58-0 loss to Clemson cost them a solid head coach in Al Golden. But the following week's 30-27 win over Duke cost many in the wagering world some late money and raised another uncomfortable issue.
It may have been the highlight play of the year, rivaling a TD the Three Stooges scored in a memorable Curly episode. Somehow the Canes managed eight "Hail Mary" backward laterals on a kickoff return with a few seconds left to pull out a beyond miracle win. Only problem was a few laterals were illegal, one player's knee may have been down and one Miami player stepped onto the field prematurely to celebrate without the officials noticing. This was after 10 minutes of replays reviewing the outcome. Ironically, during the game Miami received a school record 23 penalties for almost 200 yards but somehow the refs missed several violations on this one play.
Though the NCAA has subsequently ruled the officials were wrong on several counts along with handing out suspensions, they are not going to award Duke an outright victory. More unfortunately, no one is going to receive their money back at any Nevada casino, major offshore sportsbook or win any appeal from their uhhh . . . private wagering source. Although the spread wasn't a factor this time (Duke -10), the closing Over/Under of 52 at most top online wagering outlets was changed due to the illegal TD.
No Wagering Appeals
The NCAA or for that matter the NFL, MLB, NCAA or NHL would readily admit, once a game is official it is in the books forever. What they will never admit under any circumstances is a primary reason is influenced by wagering purposes. No, the NCAA or NFL does not answer to Bovada or BetOnline. Nor do they conference with Caesars, Wynn or MGM. It is simply bad for business to upset the balance of "integrity" as they like to call it, allowing the books to award refunds or pay both sides. Unfortunately, not only did the confused officials cost Duke a victory, it also happened to affect a BETTING LINE on the game. Would it have caused quite an overall stir without that key component? We'll never really know.
You may also recall the infamous 2012 Packers-Seahawks Monday Night Football game involving replacement officials while NFL refs were on strike. The blind replacement ref awarded WR Golden Tate of Seattle a game winning last second TD, even after several replays clearly showed him not having full possession plus the most blatant push-off penalty of all-time. Along with manic Packers coach Mike McCarthy, enraged bettors demanded a refund. Your attorney couldn't have helped you nor the Better Business Bureau. The Pack not only lost the game but Pack bettors lost out -2.5 as well. To make things worse, the miscalled touchdown pushed the game Over the Total, sending anyone who bet the Under the Total screaming for justice that memorable Monday evening.
When the Bell Rings
Unfortunately, sports wagering is not set-up similar to horse racing where a licensed state steward and third-party judge(s) make decisions before making races "official" and subsequently awarding payment. A horse bettor knows that when they "hear the bell ring", the race is official and it's time to collect. Judges are sequestered with all kinds of different cameras and equipment in a booth high above the track to examine evidence. For example, it is up to them to make a subjective judgment whether one jockey or horse creates a foul or interference affecting the outcome of the race. We may agree or disagree with their decision but at least outcomes are not decided down on the playing field by pressured game referees or umpires.
In fairness to the Miami-Duke officials, they didn't have the technical equipment that horse racing judges have. Also, they were under stress to render a decision ASAP to decide the outcome of a major NCAA football game, not one of a thousand horse races.
The NBA Got it Right
The closest model to perfection is what the NBA is currently deploying. Their replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey has been a tremendous advantage for basketball. In any close call the referees can conference at the scorer's table, then put on a head-set to speak directly with the officials in the conference center in Secaucus. Similar to horse racing judges, they have all the necessary state of the art equipment to get all calls correctly as an aid for the court officials. By the numbers, they have 94 HD monitors, wired to all 29 arenas and 15 NBA referees working as consultants there.
My guess to what motivated this marvelous technical advancement for the NBA? They needed to install "better barn doors" after a very bad horse broke out. After dealing with the shame of the Tim Donaghy scandal in 2007, it was time to put more cameras on the officials as well as the players. Since then, NBA head coaches have severely dropped their disputes, fans have become more comfortable with referee decisions and thankfully, no wagering scandals have emerged since. Could it also be among the factors why of the 4 U.S. sports leagues, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been the most vocal proponent for legalized federal sports wagering in the U.S.? The third-party replay booth has certainly been a great step involving the integrity & eye of the process.
No doubt we'll never stop hearing the cries of "it's fixed" from someone in the crowd who lost their game bet. I assure you "it's not 99.99% of the time". Ironically, the closer we get to more U.S. states (ex: New Jersey) legalizing sports wagering, the more radar we'll create to promoting a 100% comfort zone. Oh..and one more thing, As entertaining and memorable as that Miami-Duke finish was, look for another subsequent change in the NCAA rulebook because of it. That you can bet on.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding NFL previews and picks from Glenn, click here.