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Jordan Spencer’s Augustana homecoming aims to safeguard the next generation

Seven years after the basketball fans in Sioux Falls were hailing Jordan Spencer and his Augustana Vikings team-mates as the NCAA Division II National Championship winners, the team’s former point guard has returned to his old college to advise current student-athletes on some of the gambling-related challenges he has faced since leaving university.

At a time when sports wagering accessibility is on the rise across the country, it is an increasingly prevalent discussion among college athletes, as the effects of the pastime can be felt by those participating in matches in which betting activity is taking place, even though competition bylaws prevent them from partaking in sports wagering of their own.

Therefore, Spencer’s first time back at Augustana University since he graduated five years ago was a visit with a mission, as he addressed audiences of both student-athletes and staff with his lived experience story of gambling-related harm, which has had a negative effect on his professional career since returning to his native UK.

He received a ban from playing in the British Basketball League and from representing Great Britain, having been found guilty of wagering on games in which he was involved; one of many side-effects of being consumed by an addiction to gambling. He also suffered serious financial and emotional harm, which almost led to tragic consequences as he contemplated whether to take his own life in order to escape the struggle he was facing.

“It has been amazing,” admitted Spencer, with regard to the reception he received upon his Augustana return as part of an NCAA-wide program that EPIC deliver to colleges across every division.

“I’ve been able to reconnect with a lot of old teammates, old friends, my old faculty. It’s great to be here for the opportunity of talking to them about the kind of troubles I’ve encountered.

“I hope I have been able to hit home with a lot of people with my message and my story. If someone can seek help or receive some advice that they need as a result of hearing my story, that would be a great achievement from the visit.”

There was also an emotional reunion with his former coach, Tom Billeter, who holds the best winning record in Augustana basketball history.

Reflecting on meeting up with his one of his successful former alumni, coach Billeter explained:

“It’s has been great to have Jordan back and I don’t know if people know how good a player he was at an incredibly high level and what he meant for our basketball program in general, and for the university.

“I beat myself up for a few days when I found out what the purpose of his talk was all about, but what helped was visiting with Jordan.

“Anytime there’s any type of situation like that, right away I look at myself, and think ‘what could I have done better?’ or ‘what could I have done differently?’.

“When Jordan explained it to me, how this happened post-Augustana, but now he’s able to admit it, fix it, and come out here and help other players at other schools, I couldn’t be more proud of him.

“Jordan’s always had a great heart. He’s always been a wonderful teammate, and this is probably him being a point guard and a leader. This is a way for him to continue to be a point guard – he’s a point guard right now for gambling addiction.”

Spencer explained that there’s nothing that his former coach could have done to prevent the way his relationship with wagering unfolded, explaining:

“He would have had no idea about it, and I don’t think anyone really has, but it’s a good thing that I’m here and able to hopefully relate to other players and help them to not make any bad decisions like I did.

“Coach Billeter has been very supportive of me, just like everyone else here at Augustana, so it’s the least I could do to give back to the university.”

The benefits to current student-athletes were also outlined by Madison Peterson, Augustana University’s associate athletics director for compliance and senior woman administrator, who was grateful to Spencer for bringing a real-life example of a compliance issue that could potentially cost student-athletes their college sport careers. She admitted:

“Our administration thought it was a great idea to host this talk because gambling and sports wagering has been such a hot topic in the NCAA’s eyes and on our campus.

“It was a great opportunity to get a different voice for our student-athletes, coaches and staff to hear, to really hear the message of what it can be like, and how detrimental it can be to your life and your career. Listening to someone that’s actually been through it makes it more real.

“Knowing that it’s a former student-athlete at Augustana talking to our student-athletes is huge and is going to be so beneficial because he was in their shoes and he totally understands what it’s like to be an Augustana student-athlete.

“His story hit a lot of nerves, but also gave our student athletes a realization that this can happen to them. Knowing that this can really hurt your eligibility is so important.”

The face-to-face sessions delivered by EPIC Risk Management at colleges across the US are supported by Entain Foundation U.S.

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