Virginia Tech Player Reveals Sports Bets Led To NCAA Suspension

Tisdale shared his story with The Athletic, discussing his misunderstanding of NCAA rules

Virginia Tech linebacker Alan Tisdale missed the first six games of the Hokies’ 2022 season. Speculation as to why the redshirt senior defender was deemed ineligible by the NCAA ended Thursday, when The Athletic reported that Tisdale was suspended for wagering on NBA games over the summer. 

Tisdale placed about $400 worth of bets across about 100 wagers on the NBA Finals, according to the report. None of the bets were more than $5, and he won a total $41 on the various wagers. Tisdale placed his bets legally on FanDuel in Virginia. The winnings were donated to charity after Tisdale self-reported his violations to the Virginia Tech athletic department. 

The report suggests Tisdale was unaware that any sports betting by a student-athlete is an NCAA violation, not just gambling on the sport you play. During a team meeting before the season, Tisdale realized he made a mistake and reported his violation to Virginia Tech, which passed it along to the NCAA. He was issued a nine-game suspension by the NCAA, which was reduced to six after an appeal.

Virginia Tech wasn’t pleased with the NCAA’s decision. 

“We try and do things right,” Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry told The Athletic. “And even though the kid was wrong, he didn’t know he was wrong. And as soon as he realized he might be, he came forward. And I just don’t think there was enough consideration given for how things shook out.” 

NCAA’s stance on gambling

The NCAA prohibits sports wagering of any kind, as it outlines on its website

“Types of sport wagers that violate NCAA rules include, but are not limited to, fantasy leagues, March Madness brackets, Super Bowl squares, Calcuttas, sports pools, online sports bets, sports betting apps, parlay and prop bets, live in-game betting and single-game sports bets,” the NCAA website says. 

When an athlete places money on the outcome of a sporting event — which can even mean paying a $1 entry fee into a fantasy league — the NCAA considers it gambling. That gambling can impact a player’s eligibility. 

“If you put something at risk (such as cash, entry fee, dinner or other tangible item) on any amateur and/or professional sporting event with a chance to win something in return, you violate NCAA sports wagering rules,” the NCAA website says. 

The length of a player’s suspension is considered on a case-by-case basis. According to The Athletic report, there was hope inside the Virginia Tech athletic department that Tisdale’s suspension would be only a few games, considering he turned himself in. Tisdale wanted to self-report the wagering in part to avoid possible late-season disaster.

“I didn’t want to hurt the team,” Tisdale told The Athletic. “Because making it to a bowl game and later on they found out, I didn’t want that. I didn’t want that on the team. These are my brothers.”

Virginia Tech won’t be heading to a bowl game this season, having already lost seven games, but Tisdale’s presence was missed by the Hokies. Since returning to action on Oct. 15, Tisdale has 28 tackles and a sack in three games, proving he’s an important piece of the team’s defense. 

It’s unclear how the six-game absence could impact Tisdale’s NFL hopes. He entered the season on a watch list to play in the 2022-23 Reese’s Senior Bowl, an event that gives hopeful NFL players a chance to play in front of scouts. It’s a challenge to be invited to the event, and it often requires a strong showing in your senior season. 

Tisdale’s example of self-reporting and being suspended half of his final collegiate season doesn’t exactly encourage other players who realize they’ve committed minor violations to report their mistakes. It’s unclear if the NCAA would have ever known about Tisdale’s bets if he didn’t report himself.

The NFL has a different rule

Could Tisdale’s story push the NCAA to revisit its stance on gambling? With sports betting legal in more than 30 U.S. states, there’s certainly a case that the NCAA’s current sports wagering rules are outdated. 

The NFL bans league personnel from wagering on sporting events, but NFL players are actually allowed to bet on sporting events, as long as the events aren’t NFL games.

“Casual betting on other sports by players has always been permitted and a right protected by the NFLPA,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Pro Football Talk via email in March. 

Wagering on NFL games is considered a serious offense by the league, though. Current Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season after he bet on NFL games as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. 

Ridley was not playing, due to a mental health break, when he placed the bets on a mobile sportsbook in Florida. Ridley wagered more than $30,000 across various sports and leagues, including the NFL, in November 2021. 

Understandably, the NFL publicly punished a player for wagering on NFL games, given the possible integrity concerns of players wagering on their own sports and teams. Tisdale’s punishment doesn’t make as much sense, as he placed small, legal wagers on the NBA and it cost the college football player six games.

Photo: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY


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