JIM ENGSTER: Sue Gunter was Right about Equality

Kayshon Boutte and Gambling

Former LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte (7) finished his career with 131 catches for 1,782 yards and 16 TDs. PHOTO BY: Jonathan Mailhes

Forty years ago, this writer interviewed Sue Gunter, who was in her second year as head coach of the Lady Tigers basketball unit. Gunter in 1984 featured the most prolific scorer in the history of LSU women’s hoops in Joyce Walker, who led her mates to a 23-7 record and the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and completed her college career with 2,906 points in 117 games with the same size ball that Howard Carter and Leonard Mitchell were using for the men at LSU.

Walker was good enough to later play with the Harlem Globetrotters and was a freakish talent, who could do everything the men could except dunk. Guster was livid the elders of the NCAA had opted to reduce the size of the basketball on the female college court. Presumably to see more dunks.

“When you start tinkering with the properties of the game,” said Sue. “You lose all integrity.” Despite the protestations from Coach Gunter, the standard basketball size for men is 29.5 (size 7) for men and 28.5 (size 6) for women. The weight is 22 ounces for men and 20 ounces for women.

From 1967 to 1976, college men were banned from slamming the ball through the rim. This included the entire era of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton at UCLA. By 1977, players like LSU’s DeWayne “The Astronaut” Scales were showing off in pre-game workouts by dunking two balls in the same leap to the basket.

Gunter correctly predicted that making the ball smaller would not produce more dunks in women’s hoops. Entering this season, there were only 30 dunks in the history of the women’s game, one by Sylvia Fowles of LSU and 18 by Brittney Griner at Baylor where she played for Kim Mulkey.

The first dunk by a woman in the NCAA was by Georgeann Wells of West Virginia on Dec. 21, 1984 against the University of Charleston.

The moment has arrived for women to either play with the same size ball as men or stimulate more dunking to excite fans. Perhaps the goals should be lowered to nine feet for women. This would enable them to keep pace with their male counterparts with what Joe Dean termed the “Stufferino.” A dunk in basketball is akin to a home run in baseball. It juices up sedentary fans, living vicariously through athletes who surpass the ordinary.

The better option is to do as Gunter recommended. Women don’t need a smaller ball to enhance shooting percentages and it is an insult to females everywhere to have men play a more demanding game than their sisters.

Women should immediately opt for a 29.5-inch basketball, weighing 22 ounces. Griner is 6’9. She does not need to be treated as a second-class athlete. Hopefully, Coach Mulkey will take the advice of her predecessor and lead the charge for equity in college basketball.

It’s Shocking, Players are Gambling

As January closed, it was revealed that former LSU receiver Kayshon Boutte allegedly placed far more bets than he caught passes. Boutte is accused of 8,900 bets between April 6, 2022 and May 7, 2023 when he turned 21. It is illegal in Louisiana for those under the age of 21 to gamble.

Boutte is accused of two bets on one LSU game he played in according to his arrest warrant. The news was accompanied by various national media notes that the NFL is encouraging gambling while prohibiting players from participating.

Human nature is such that this is a recipe for scandal. Players will bet as Pete Rose did in baseball and at some point, there could be a repeat of throwing games as the 1919 Chicago White Sox did on the grandest baseball stage, the World Series.

Boutte was not adept at concealing his identity. He was reportedly gambling under the name “kayshonboutte7.” Records indicate that Boutte lost $81,000 after placing $636,000 in bets. Marble palaces that serve as gambling meccas are not built on the backs of winners. It is a fool’s game to bet on sports even if you are a knowledgeable player such as Boutte.

Boutte could be suspended by the NFL since he is a current member of the New England Patriots. But he could use his experience as a student at LSU as a defense.

LSU sent an email in January 2022 as part of its partnership with Caesar’s that read “Bet 20, get $300.” It advised students, many of whom were not of legal gambling age, to use an LSU code to access the offer to wager. The student newspaper, The Reveille reported “the university used its email to push a vice upon its students” The publication further noted that LSU policy is for university emails to be used to facilitate the university’s mission.

Manship School Professor Bob Mann told the New York Times “It just feels gross and tacky for a university to be encouraging people to engage in behavior that is addictive and harmful.” It is hard not to accept Mann’s assessment when the email in question made this bold introduction. “The time to place your first bet (and earn your first bonus) with Caesars Sportsbook, the greatest sports betting app of all time—has finally arrived.”

Fifty-five of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved sports betting in November of 2020. LSU seized the opportunity with an agreement with Caesars in 2021 that named the company the exclusive gaming and sportsbook partner with LSU Athletics.

LSU canceled the deal in 2023. The agreement allowed Caesars to place signs throughout Tiger Stadium and create the Caesars Sportsbook Skyline Club with seats for 1,500 fans, including a buffet that also featured an option to purchase beer and wine. Caesars also had rights to brandish signs at the PMAC and Alex Box Stadium.

The full contract involving LSU and Caesars has not been released by the university for public viewing. Similar cases related to contracts of universities doing business as private organizations have required those agreements to be available to the public after court challenges.

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