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Stine: Reinstate Nelson Brands, Iowa Wrestling Teammates

Photo by Penn State athletics

Whether fans support sports gambling or not, it’s part of today’s world, and Iowa wrestling is a part of that world. It isn’t going anywhere. No matter what sport you watch these days, it’s almost inevitable that at some point you’re going to see a commercial for FanDuel, DraftKings or some sort of sports book.

All of the sports organizations want a cut of that money, too. You can even place a bet while you’re attending a game at the stadium. So, why shouldn’t the NCAA want to be a part of that? There are even a few universities that partner with sports books. Michigan State and LSU partner with Caesars, and Maryland has a deal with PointsBet.

When you have the NCAA and its universities partnering with sports books, there shouldn’t be much of a surprise that college athletes are going to place some bets on sporting events. 

It was announced back in August that Iowa wrestling team members Abe Assad, Nelson Brands, Tony Cassioppi, and Cobe Siebrecht will all miss the entire season this year due to their roles in sports gambling. Patrick Kennedy and Cullan Schriever will miss part of the season.

Siebrecht still has another year of eligibility if he chooses to use it for Iowa wrestling, but Assad, Brands, and Cassioppi are all going to miss their final season of collegiate wrestling.

I have to admit I’m sort of conflicted on this news. The journalist in me doesn’t have an opinion, but the former competitor in me absolutely hates it for the guys who won’t get to wrestle for the Hawkeyes any longer.

As for the Penn State-Iowa wrestling dual meet this season, Penn State will win and I don’t think it would make much of a difference if those guys were available or not. I also think PSU would win by a big margin again at the NCAA Tournament like last season, even if the Hawkeyes were at full strength.

Brands took to X (formerly Twitter) last week to discuss his suspension, although he deleted the posts shortly afterward.

“I began sports gambling in September of 2022 because I saw an ad on X (Twitter) that @DKSportsbook (DraftKings) would give me $200 as a new member if I bet $5 on an NFL game,” Brands wrote. “In my head it was a no brainer for me to get involved.”

All of that is very understandable. A lot of people get into sports gambling because they see awesome deals advertised.

Brands continued,

“I deposited $195 over a span of 5 months and ended up withdrawing my winnings at the end of January. I netted $405.54.

“I bet on NFL, MLB, College Football (Iowa Football 6x), College Basketball, and Overseas Tennis. All I saw on social media was to bet the under on Iowa Football. I never once bet on my own sport or my own team. Nor would I ever think of gambling in an illegal way.”

Hey, at least he’s a smart bettor by taking the under on Iowa football.

I kid. But in all honesty, I don’t see what the problem is as long as he isn’t betting on his own team or even his own sport. Betting on college wrestling isn’t all that prevalent, anyway.

I talked to a guy last week who works for a Division I athletic department. He informed me that the NCAA frowns upon college athletes gambling on any NCAA-sanctioned sport. Famous athletes are always seen at the Kentucky Derby gambling on the famous horse race, and their organizations never bat an eye. It’s the same with the NCAA because they don’t sanction horse racing.

Brands concluded his posts by writing:

“‘But Nelson you signed a waiver and had an information meeting on NCAA compliance!’ Although this is true I missed the meeting in 2022 and had no clue that I could be PERMANENTLY banned.

“I did realize that I was going against NCAA regulations but I did not understand the repercussions coming my way or the fact that I had a chance at ending my wrestling career entirely.”

It’s not known if the rest of the suspended athletes were in that compliance meeting, but if Brands wasn’t there, how can the NCAA suspend him? There’s no way he could have known of what happened in that meeting.

Even if he was in that meeting, isn’t a season-long suspension a little bit too much? It all wreaks of the Pete Rose situation.

Here’s where it doesn’t make sense that college athletes aren’t allowed to place bets on sports. Let’s say a Penn State football player walks into class and sits next to a non-athlete. It would be natural for the people around the player to talk to him about the game last weekend. It might also come up that one student tells the player, ‘Thanks for helping me win money on the game last weekend.’

Now I would hope a PSU football player, or any college football player, isn’t betting on his own game. That would be a serious problem, and the integrity of the games would come into serious question.

But if a player’s peers are able to gamble on sports and there’s no problem, an athlete should be able to do the same. Don’t start with the integrity concerns.

But then again, this is the NCAA we’re talking about. They don’t usually make a lot of sense with their rules.

As long as the checks keep cashing from these sportsbooks, let the commercials keep airing. Let the universities keep partnering with their own books. But as soon as the athletes try cashing in on the same business that the NCAA and the universities are, that’s unacceptable to the NCAA. 

Reinstate Brands and the Hawkeye wrestlers. They didn’t do anything that a lot of sports fans are already doing.

Yes, college athletes are much better off now than they used to be due to the rise of Name, Image and Likeness. But make no mistake about it: They’re still treated like second-class citizens by the NCAA, and it is disgusting.

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