By Pat Harty
INDIANAPOLIS – Iowa senior defensive tackle Noah Shannon turned down a chance to attend the annual Big Ten media day event on Wednesday because of his alleged involvement in an ongoing investigation into sports wagering.
And it appears to have been his decision.
“I really didn’t anticipate a big deal, and I think he just didn’t feel comfortable,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday. “We as coaches were pretty much out of all this other than we got some information because it’s really about the law firm and then then the NCAA. So, the information has been pretty sporadic.
“But a long story short, he just didn’t feel comfortable because he is under investigation as are several other guys. I understand the rule and I’m not condoning gambling for college athletes, especially on college sports. It’s a real opportunity to maybe let’s revise our thinking or re-examine what we’re doing.”
Shannon is believed to be among 26 current or former UI student-athletes that are reportedly the focus on the investigation, along with 15 student-athletes from Iowa State.
There were at least four members of the Iowa baseball that were linked to the investigation, including former All-Big Ten selection Keaton Anthony.
However, their names became known publicly because the investigation was launched in early May, and during the baseball season.
When Anthony didn’t play in the first game of a series against Ohio State, the media asked for a reason and that led to a statement being released saying that there were some players being withheld from games as part of an NCAA investigation.
And now nearly three months later, the investigation still is ongoing.
Ferentz said Wednesday that several of his players are linked to the investigation, but Shannon is the only name that has surfaced.
“But I can share the humanistic side of things, Noah is one of our best guys and this poor guy was really feeling badly last week, really badly,” Kirk Ferentz said. “He feels like he let his team down. And my wife’s mad because there is no criminal offense. He’s 22 or 23 years old. He hasn’t hurt anybody. He hasn’t done anything wrong.
“So, to see him feeling the way he was feeling, it made all of us feel badly. You just hate to see a guy go like that. And again, if he gambled, he gambled. I don’t know the extent of all that stuff. But it’s been an education for me just examining, okay, what are our policies versus what world we’re living in right now.”
Ferentz said Wednesday that he never has gambled besides playing cards with his buddies in college.
But with the world changing around him, Ferentz is trying to learn the best way to handle the new environment, which now has sports gambling legal in multiple states, including Iowa.
Betting lines have also become a popular part of the media’s coverage of college sports.
Ferentz compared society’s approach to gambling to how society has approached the legalization of marijuana with penalties having been loosened in multiple states.
“Whether it’s drug usage or gambling, or a lot of things, I think the best thing to be is really pro-active educationally,” Ferentz said. “That’s how I feel about it.”
Ferentz believes the NCAA should re-evaluate how it punishes players that are caught gambling to make sure it fits with the new environment.
“I don’t know what the outcome is going to be,” head said. “Would like to see the NCAA revisit what’s fair.”
Iowa senior linebacker Jay Higgins was picked to replace Shannon at Big Ten media day, which is being held in Higgins’ hometown of Indianapolis.
Higgins also showed his support for Shannon during Wednesday’s interviews.
“I’m a big fan of Noah Shannon,” Higgins said. “And I feel like if you go around the facility, you’ll get the same answer from everybody. He’s just a leader. He doesn’t say much, but when he does say something, you know it’s important.
“Having him come back for his sixth year was big for me. You don’t make it to your sixth year in the University of Iowa football program by accident. So, he’s doing things the right way and the way he’s taking that d-line room and put the jersey in a better place as I like to say. I’m just extremely happy to have him in front of me and happy to be around him. He’s a good guy.”
Shannon has started in each of the past two seasons at defensive tackle, and he used his free Covid year to return for a sixth season.
But his final season with the Hawkeyes is now filled with uncertainty as the investigation continues.
Iowa will face Utah State in the season opener on Sept. 2 at Kinnick Stadium.
Ferentz was asked Wednesday if he expects any of the players linked to the investigation to miss any games this season.
“I don’t know,” Ferentz said. “I don’t even want to project.”
Ferentz also doesn’t know what to expect from a punishment standpoint.
“It could be a range of things,” Ferentz said. “It could be education for the players. It could be suspensions. I don’t know. We’ll just deal with whatever it is when it comes forward.”
The Iowa baseball players missed 18 games overall, which is nearly one-third of the season.
“I’d be throwing darts, but, obviously, hopeful earlier in August than later in August,” Ferentz said. “But I have no idea what the process is in front. It’s pretty much out of our hands at this point.”