Dayton coach Anthony Grant criticizes online attacks of players by sports gamblers

“You had the lead with two minutes left. That’s not comfortable. People will go down. Heads will roll for what happened tonight, I promise you that!”

Although the Flyers topped visiting Davidson, 68-61, on Tuesday night, they did not cover the 9.5-point spread oddsmakers had given them.

And last Friday night — with a major meltdown that led to a 63-62 loss to VCU at the Arena — they didn’t cover the seven-point spread in that game either.

“Friday was the worst, Sullivan said.

He admitted players had gotten threatening messages. And that was the last straw for Grant — who this season, more than ever, is especially protective of his players.

Just over a minute into his postgame comments to the media Tuesday night, the head coach paused for a couple of seconds and then poured out his thoughts in a two-minute address that was as emotional as I’ve ever seen him on the public stage after a game:

“I have to say something because I think it’s just necessary at his point.

“These young men, we’re asking them to sacrifice quite a bit for us to be able to do what we do and enjoy what we enjoy. So I’m just asking all the Flyer fans just to understand that we’re dealing with 18-, 21-, 22-year-olds, and it’s about them. This is about them.

“So those of us that love the Flyers, which is the vast majority of our fan base, we appreciate you. But if this is about anything else that doesn’t relate to what’s in the best interests of the kids, what’s in the best interest of this university in this proud program and community that loves the Flyers …

“There’s some laws that have recently been enacted that, really to me, could change the landscape of what college sports is all about.

“When we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda … it sickens me.”

His voice trailed off, he took a big breath, and he sat in silence for 12 seconds.

“They have families!” he said as emotion welled up in his voice before another pause.

“Mental health is real!

“So if you’re a Flyer fan, I ask you just to understand what you’re dealing with, with young people. Take a step back, and reevaluate your priorities. And if you can’t, we don’t need you.

“We don’t need you.”

As is often the case, someone on a message board offered a skewered view afterward:

“Awwwwww, don’t give me that whiny crying bull—-, their (sic) Paid athletes now, give me a f—–g break AG, with that being said your (sic) an idiot to bet Dayton, bet against Dayton and your (sic) a winner almost every night like tonight 9.5 favorite win by 7.”

But this is not whiny BS.

These are real concerns for college athletes today.

Not just basketball

After Ohio State’s loss to Michigan in late November, Kim Stroud, the mother of Buckeyes’ quarterback and Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud, said he got death threats because his team had been beaten by the Wolverines for the second year in a row.

When OSU kicker Noah Ruggles missed a 50-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl three weeks ago — a miss that enabled Georgia to escape with a 42-41 victory — he received death threats.

It’s a recurring problem that former OSU lineman Harry Miller brought up last year when he announced his retirement from the game for mental health reasons. At that time — and since then — he has spoken of the hate and death threats that had been directed at his teammates.

For the UD Pride guy who thinks it’s much ado about nothing, consider people like Addison Choi and Ben “Parlay” Patz.

Choi is a former college soccer at a private school in Massachusetts with a penchant for making bad bets. A few years back he sent out racist threats to dozens of athletes he thought performed poorly.

According to federal authorities who finally arrested him, he sent messages to athletes via their Instagram accounts.

Patz, who had been a St, John’s student, rose to fame in 2019 when he amassed $1.1 million in gross winnings via parlays in two months of the football season. When he started to lose, he sent threatening messages on social media to athletes.

According to authorities, he messaged a Pepperdine basketball player: “I will enter your home while you sleep and kill you.”

“Your throat will be severed by a dull knife,” he wrote to an Atlanta Braves player. “Your entire family will be beheaded and burned alive.”

He was arrested by federal authorities in Florida and ended up getting a wrist slap: 36 months probation and being banned from gambling.

All these incidents happened before gambling fever overtook Ohio on Jan. 1 when sports betting was legalized in the state.

Now you can bet on sports events in multiple ways:

⋅ Mobile wagering on phone apps

⋅ Gambling at sports books run by racinos, casinos and pro sports teams.

⋅ Betting at select bars, restaurants and other retail sites with self-service gaming kiosks.

Kroger grocery stores will soon offer sports gambling. The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton will have betting.

According to the New York Times, eight universities have deals with sports gambling companies.

The Times reported at least a dozen college athletic departments and booster clubs have signed agreements with brick-and-mortar casinos. LSU and Michigan State signed deals with Caesars, and the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland have a sponsorship arrangement with PointsBet.

The Times reported students had gotten emails to their inboxes encouraging them to “place your bets (and earn your first bonus points).”

Whether it’s on local campuses or across the country, people are betting on college basketball like never before.

And they are betting on the Flyers.

Although he doesn’t have the latest numbers, Sullivan said back in 2020 before betting became legal in Ohio, $20 million was bet on Flyers basketball.

Expressing concerns

The move that made all this possible was a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a federal ban on states legalizing sports wagering.

Ohio is now one of 36 states, along with the District of Columbia, with legalized sports betting.

Before legislation was passed in Ohio, Sullivan and other athletic directors met with state lawmakers and voiced their opposition to college betting. They brought up some of the very abuses happening now.

“I met with dozens of lawmakers before it passed and said this is what was going to happen,” he said.

He stressed this isn’t affecting pros like Joey Votto or Joe Burrow — “they’ve got people who’ve got people, who’ve got people” who insulate them.

“This is affecting 18- to 22-year-olds,” he said. “You can direct message them. You can find them and find their families.

“I said (to the lawmakers), ‘Imagine if this was your own son or daughter. These are kids going to class, walking to Subway, going to the store, pumping their own gas. They’re by themselves and people can get to them.’

“Or how about going back to your dorm and a kid across the street — or across the hall — just lost 500 bucks because of the way you played?

“I was pretty vocal about it, but the adults, the legislators, they were focused on the money.”

And the Ohio Legislative Service Commission has estimated sports betting will become a multibillion dollar business in Ohio.

Are there consequences?

Sullivan wanted to make it clear this was not about social media and fans simply being upset with a Flyers’ loss:

“This is not about social media criticism. People can say what they want, that’s the modern sports world. And Anthony is a pro enough to know people will say what they say. And I know that, too. People are passionate about sports and sometimes they’re going to get upset. We don’t expect them to applaud when we got our butts kicked.

“And if you have specific complaints, direct them to me or to Anthony. We are the adults. This is our job.

“But don’t go after 18- to 22-year-olds. Don’t threaten kids with a note that says: ‘You suck. Go kill yourself. You lost my parlay!’”

Some of the most egregious threats he said have already been turned over to the police.

And Wednesday morning, Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director Matt Schuler said the commission may look into state bettors making violent comments on social media to collegiate athletes over gambling losses and put them on a sports betting exclusion list.

If the commission can identify someone making violent remarks to collegiate athletes, Schuler said it has the authority to ban that person from legalized Ohio sports betting:

“We don’t have control over people’s behavior, but we do have control over the venues in how they participate,” he said.

Until any of this happens — if it happens at all — Grant is going to do some policing of his own. To reiterate what he said in no uncertain terms Tuesday night:

“So if you’re a Flyer fan, I ask you just to understand what you’re dealing with, with young people. Take a step back, and reevaluate your priorities. And if you can’t, we don’t need you.

“We don’t need you.”