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College Baseball

Something Weird’s Going On With Alabama Baseball

1:46 PM EDT on May 4, 2023

An Alabama Crimson Tide hat rests in the dugout during a game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers on May 12, 2018, at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA.
John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Monday, ESPN reported that Ohio gambling regulators had halted all wagering on Alabama baseball because of two suspicious bets placed at a Cincinnati sportsbook. In the following days, New Jersey and Pennsylvania halted bets on Crimson Tide baseball as well. Alabama's head coach was fired on Thursday, but there's still not a lot of clarity on what happened.

The game under scrutiny was on April 28 between Alabama and LSU. From a school recap highlighted by Mike Rodak of AL.com, the Crimson Tide had an abrupt change before the game: Luke Holman was supposed to start, but he was held out due to back tightness and replaced by Hagan Banks, who was informed of the decision "an hour before" first pitch.

For context, LSU was the top-ranked team in baseball and -245 moneyline favorites to win this game. The Tigers held a 4-1 lead through five innings. In the bottom of the sixth, LSU scored three more runs after a hit-by-pitch and two walks, and although Alabama added one run in the eighth and four in the ninth, the Tigers held on for an 8-6 victory.

Louisiana Gaming Control Board chairman Ronnie Johns told NOLA.com that the suspicious bets placed in Ohio both involved LSU to win, though he didn't specify the terms of the parlay or amount wagered:

"There were a couple of bets made in Cincinnati, Ohio," Johns said. "One was on a parlay which involved the LSU-Alabama game, and then there was another straight-up (money line) bet. I was told it was a large bet that involved LSU-Alabama."

"That in itself indicates that there's definitely no suspicious activity on the part of LSU," he said. "You don't typically suspect the team that was picked to win the game. The problem would have been whether someone on the Alabama side was suspicious of activity."

A last-minute starting pitcher change and late-inning runs aren't by default that suspicious over the course of an average baseball game, and there's no indication that any players are under suspicion or investigation. The more compelling evidence that something's up is today's tersely worded firing. On Thursday morning, Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne announced that head baseball coach Brad Bohannon was gone "for, among other things, violating the standards, duties, and responsibilities expected of University employees." There's a lot that can fit in "among other things," but Byrne didn't elaborate. According to ESPN, "Bohannon has not been connected to the bets" placed in Ohio. Update (5:42 p.m. ET): ESPN is now reporting that the person who placed the bets in Ohio "was communicating with Bohannon at the time." That's quite a change.

So: Someone in Ohio placed some big bets on Alabama to lose, gambling regulators were weirded out, and now Alabama has an interim coach. That's all we know so far. Independent of all that, former Alabama pitcher Johnny Blake Bennett filed a lawsuit in April against Bohannon, pitching coach Jason Jackson, and trainer Sean Stryker, accusing them of negligence in how they treated his arm injury in 2019, though that doesn't feel like something to prompt a school to fire its coach a month later without letting the case play out. Still, it's already been a hell of a year for Alabama athletics. If you know any more on what's going on, drop a line.

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