James Franklin doesn’t give away week-to-week injury information regarding his players. But if Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s musing becomes reality, that policy will be challenged.
Two months after the federal legalization of sports gambling, Delany suggested at Big Ten media days that “player availability” reports should become a weekly norm. The reason why players are held out — injury, suspension, etc. — doesn’t need to become public, the commissioner said. But if, for example, Trace McSorley cannot play Week 1 against Appalachian State, it must be noted prior to the game.
“With exception to the home field, the availability of personnel is critical to people who are interested in gambling, legally or illegally,” Delany said. “Therefore, when players are unavailable, we should know that. ... I don’t have a model code, but I do think it’s something we should do. We probably should have done it before, and we should certainly do it now.”
Big Ten coaches’ responses to those comments were mixed. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said, “I’d be fine with that.” Minnesota’s PJ Fleck would be “all for it,” and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald — who has done a weekly injury report for years now — just wants to ensure there’s “accountability to it.”
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Meanwhile, Franklin said he would comply with an availability report rule. But Penn State’s coach has plenty of questions as to why and how it would be implemented.
“I’m not really necessarily concerned in helping people make better decisions with things like (gambling),” Franklin said with a smile. “I do think obviously you want a situation where you’re leveling the playing field. Everybody playing under the same rules. The problem is, how are you going to enforce all those things? One program is doing one thing, another program is doing the complete opposite; that makes it challenging.
“I want to know what the rules are within our state. I want to know what the rules are nationally. And once I know what those are, we’ll just work around them.”
Franklin’s current policy — the coach discloses injury information only if it’s season-ending — is the way it is for a few reasons. Franklin feels player health is a personal issue. NFL scouts are always watching. And at its base level, if a running back’s sprained left ankle becomes public knowledge, the opponent knows where to hit him.
In Franklin’s own words, “Why are you going to put your weakness out on the table and let people know what those things are?”
If Franklin is eventually forced to do that, his focus will shift to continuously educating his players and staff.
Sports gambling has always been around, whether it was in Las Vegas or through a local bookie, so the idea of it isn’t a new concern. But with sports books open in New Jersey and Delaware and across the country, Delany feels coaches and programs need to be more transparent about injuries.
“Whatever the rules are, we’re going to follow the rules. We will live within those rules, and go from there,” Franklin said. “What I don’t understand at this point is, how are we going to enforce this? Is this going to be a compliance-enforced rule on each individual campus? Is this an NCAA-enforced rule? What are the penalties for it? We just have to be careful because we have enough rules right now that we have a hard time enforcing, and now we add more.”