Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Holy Toledo, let's take the under! 

Skip Sauer has posted twice on the University of Toledo point-shaving scandal. In an article Saturday in the St. Augustine Record is a more complete story that originated in the Detroit Free Press. Skip asks:
The idea that an operator could get $100k down on a Toledo game without the line adjusting or being taken off the board -- one of you betting hounds can check the data on that -- suggests to me that online sportsbooks may have added a lot of liquidity to the point spread market in recent years.
The size of the legal college betting market was estimated to be $2.7 billion in 1997 (Sinclair 1998) and most likely has grown much since then. Online books have come since then. And the bets placed in this scandal were mostly in illegal books rather than the legal markets. And yet it was a tip by a line-setting firm in Vegas that led officials to arrest the suspects. I don't think that if $100k was laid over several days in several places that it would be seen much.

The part of this that made it harder to see (I think) was that the strategy played is imperfect and a little puzzling. From the St. Augustine piece:

Players who agreed to participate were told about the betting line -- the point spread for a particular game -- the affidavit said.

"Once Gary and the players knew the line, they would decide if they could beat the spread," the complaint said. "If they were picked as an underdog by 10 points, they would decide if they could beat the 10-point spread. If they were picked as a favorite by a certain number of points, the players would decide if they would most likely win by that much.

"Once Gary consulted the players, he would decide how he wanted them to play the game to affect the outcome," the affidavit said.

It wasn't therefore always point-shaving; at times the players were trying to win by more than the spread. The player at the middle of the scandal, RB Scooter McDougle, had been able to participate in the scandal himself in 2004 when he gained a bunch of yards and scored eight TDs for the Rockets. But then he busted up his knee with two minutes to go in the team's conference championship game against Miami (O.) which the team won 35-27. Miami was a one-point favorite and has never been the same player since.

BTW, some think that this might extend further, including current NFL QB Bruce Gradkowski. Running backs have much less impact on games than do quarterbacks or kickers.