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College Baseball

Sports Gambling Can Give Us So Many Dumb Guys Doing Schemes

A general view of an Alabama Crimson Tide baseball cap during the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Alabama Crimson Tide on May 23, 2023 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.
Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The key aspect of inside information is that it’s inside. You have an edge because you know something most people don’t. That means you have to keep your inside info a secret. On April 28, Indiana youth-league baseball coach Bert Neff Jr. had inside info about Alabama’s baseball team. He did not keep this information a secret. He tried to place six-figure bets at the sports book at the Cincinnati Reds’ stadium. The large bet was well over the book’s limits on college baseball, a sport that is almost never heavily bet. The attempted bet took place on a Friday; by Monday, Ohio regulators had suspended all bets on Crimson Tide baseball games; other states followed.

The school began investigating and fired coach Brad Bohannon three days later. He had given Neff the inside info: Bohannon told him ace starting pitcher Luke Holman would be scratched and replaced by reliever Hagan Banks. LSU won the game 8-6. In this case, all the suspicious bets were flagged pretty much immediately. Neff had attempted to place a huge straight-up bet on LSU and a parlay involving the Tigers.

It’s now clear just how boneheaded the scheme was, thanks to a report from Pat Forde in Sports Illustrated. Neff did not even attempt to keep his inside info secret. Per Forde, he actually told the casino he had inside info.

Fueled by hubris and, perhaps, desperation, Neff – an obscure youth-league coach from Mooresville, Ind., with a penchant for networking in recruiting circles—stood at the window and pleaded his case for making the huge wager to the book’s staff, the sources say. He indicated that he had inside information on the game—and he did, in the palm of his hand.

Neff was texting with Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon via the encrypted messaging app Signal while at the betting window, attempting to place the wager, the sources say. His texting was indiscreet, to the point that the book’s video surveillance cameras were able to zoom in on the details of Neff and Bohannon’s text exchange, making Bohannon’s name visible later in screenshots.

“[Video cameras] can see the [text] conversation back-and-forth,” a source familiar with the incident says. “It couldn’t have been any more reckless.”

Simply incredible. It’s as if he went to the SEC directly and said he was about to insider-trade. It’s like he told a security guard he was about to rob the bank.

Forde talked to people who know Neff, which maybe gives you an idea of how he was so reckless. “He was a total clown,” one told him, and the source wasn’t saying Neff was like Pagliacci (or even Carlini). Forde also reports pals of Neff’s tried to place big baseball bets in Indiana.

It’s not quite the midcentury college basketball point-shaving scandal—no players on either team were suspected of being involved—but it’s still not so great! It is just five years into legalized sports betting, and at least one coach was texting associates inside info about his team. But Forde hints that, like the point-shaving scandal, there may be more. Cincinnati Bearcats baseball coach Scott Goggins quit in May; the school had previously fired two assistants for “potential NCAA infractions.” Forde says investigations continue at UC and Xavier, another Cincinnati school, into their connections with Neff (whose son plays on the Bearcats baseball team). Again, no players are suspected.

On the upside for Alabama, interim coach Jason Jackson led the Crimson Tide to the Super Regional finals before getting trounced by Wake Forest. Coincidentally, Bohannon has an MBA from Wake. An MBA? Involved in some shady financial dealings? You don’t say.

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