NCAA President Emphasizes Importance of Protecting Student-Athletes in College Sports Address

During his “State of College Sports” address at the NCAA Convention in Phoenix, NCAA President Charlie Baker stressed the ongoing critical need to safeguard student-athletes against the influence of illicit sports bettors.

Baker acknowledged the positive impact of the expansion of regulated sportsbooks in nearly 40 states but underlined the necessity for the organization to continue implementing measures to protect players from sports betting influences.

He emphasized, “Sports betting is basically everywhere, especially on campuses. And the harm it can cause is real. Every conversation about the team, the competition, and the health and well-being of their teammates is not just chatter anymore, but currency for some and inside information for others.”

Baker also mentioned the NCAA’s collaboration with the NFL to develop a program aimed at educating coaches and student-athletes about the challenges posed by sports betting. Additionally, he noted reaching out to former gubernatorial colleagues to ensure that states have adequate laws to protect student-athletes from harassment.

In an effort to combat online abuse and threats made against players, coaches, and officials, the NCAA recently engaged the Signify Group to utilize the company’s Threat Matrix tool, which uses artificial intelligence to monitor social media channels for abuse and threats in over 35 languages.

A recent NCAA poll of campus administrators revealed that 10% of Division I respondents were aware of student-athletes being harassed online or in person by individuals with sports betting interests.

Baker emphasized the positive impact of sports betting on NCAA-sanctioned collegiate sports, citing metrics that demonstrate increased fan engagement. The NCAA gained over a million new followers on its social platforms in 2023, with four billion impressions and 263 million engagements – figures that more than doubled from the previous year.

Furthermore, Baker highlighted the significant growth in women’s sports, particularly women’s basketball and volleyball, and the NCAA’s recent media deal with ESPN, which will allow for the consideration of revenue distribution units for women’s basketball teams participating in March Madness.

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