The episode is the stuff of nightmares for a college football coach. Just as training camp is about to begin, your starting quarterback is caught in a gambling scandal that likely will cost him his season and possibly his collegiate career.

That reality is playing out at Iowa State after Hunter Dekkers, an honorable mention All-Big 12 quarterback for the Cyclones, on Tuesday was charged with tampering with records stemming from a state investigation into sports gambling at Iowa State and Iowa. More than 40 athletes at the two schools have been under investigation, and this probe has now led to charges for seven current or former athletes at Iowa State or Iowa.

As student-athletes file back to campus nationwide, coaches and administrators are intensifying educational efforts on sports gambling, which is now legal in 35 states, including every Big Ten state except Minnesota. Leaders at universities across the state are putting education before legislation.

"People make decisions, and there's consequences for your decisions, but we do everything we can to eliminate the negative consequences and the negative decisions by proactively educating the best we possibly can," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said from Big Ten football media days last month in Indianapolis.

As a senior deputy athletic director at Minnesota State Mankato, Shane Drahota has duties that include gambling education. Students new to his campus often have the biggest reactions, especially when they hear fantasy football leagues or $5 March Madness basketball polls are off-limits.

"Jaws dropped for freshmen because they're like, 'I can't be in that?' " he said.

At stake for collegiate athletes is their eligibility. The NCAA prohibits student-athletes from gambling on any sport it sponsors at any level — professional, collegiate, high school and even youth sports. Punishments range from permanent loss of eligibility, suspensions of various lengths and completion of an educational program to regain eligibility. What might be legal in certain states is still forbidden by the NCAA.

Dekkers is accused of placing 366 online bets worth nearly $2,800 by allegedly using an online account of a close relative. The bets, according to documents, included 26 Iowa State athletic events and a 2021 football game in which Dekkers was a backup but did not play. Also among the seven charged is Iowa backup kicker Aaron Blom, who allegedly placed an over/under bet on a 2021 Hawkeyes game in which he did not play.

Athletes are hearing a simple message telling them to avoid sports betting altogether. The reality, though, is that sometimes it takes more than messaging for this lesson to sink in.

"You've really got to educate, educate, educate," Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano said at media days.

An NCAA survey of respondents between the ages of 18 and 22 earlier this year found that 58% had participated in at least one sports betting activity, 37% two or more and 24% three or more. The survey also found that two-thirds of men and 51% of women among the respondents have gambled on sports events.

Dekkers' attorney, Mark Weinhardt, said his client will plead not guilty. In a statement to the Des Moines Register, Weinhardt criticized the priority put on the case by the state.

"Thousands and thousands of college athletes place bets — usually very small ones — with shared accounts,'' Weinhardt wrote. "That is for the schools and the NCAA to police."

Kevin Gomer, director of athletic compliance, oversees the Gophers' gambling educational efforts. The athletic department uses seminars, guest speakers, signs, emails and conversations to educate student-athletes and staff. "We want to equip them with as much knowledge and information as possible and take a well-rounded approach,'' Gomer said.

His department also has partnered with Epic Risk Management, which recently trained members of the football program and will train other Gophers teams in the coming months. Gomer indicated that the developments in Iowa can serve as a teaching moment.

"Anytime there is a story — local or national — about gambling and student-athletes, it causes you to pause and reevaluate your educational efforts," he said. "It also allows for follow-up educational opportunities to student-athletes and staff."

Across Minnesota

St. Thomas is entering its third year as an NCAA Division I school after making the jump from D-III. Andrew Nelson, the Tommies associate athletic director for compliance, noticed how prevalent gambling on college sports can be during the school's D-I debut season.

"It's become kind of culturized," he said. "If you turn on ESPN, there's an [over/under] line with everything in the crawl. One of my biggest shocks was seeing St. Thomas men's basketball on the bottom scroll with the line. That was a big wakeup call for where we are now from where we were."

An Ames, Iowa, native, Nelson has paid close attention to the Iowa State developments and sees how sports gambling has grown in the state since it was legalized in casinos in 2019. Minnesota hasn't yet legalized sports gambling, so some gamblers in the state use a drive to Iowa as an option.

"As you get down toward the border, they certainly advertise that sportsbook [the FanDuel Sportsbook at Diamond Jo Casino] on billboards," Nelson said. "It's like Wall Drug."

Minnesota State's Drahota considers an athlete's makeup as a reason why gambling can be enticing. "Athletes are a natural environment for this activity," he said. "It's a competitive group of people, there's a way you can keep score, and you can have bragging rights over someone."

Across the Big Ten

During Big Ten football media days, coaches stressed education, avoidance, addiction counseling and athletes being responsible with their new fame and improved finances. Schiano supports players being paid through NIL (name, image and likeness) deals, but also worries about how the money could lead to sports gambling.

"Now with NIL, they do have money," he said. "Does that sometimes mean some of the evils that come with it? I hope not. … Sometimes when you're 18 to 22, you're not quite as ready to handle it."

Maryland coach Mike Locksley is wary of those who operate on the periphery of college football, looking to gain information to gain a betting edge.

"The big thing is educating [student-athletes] because there's power in information," he said. "… Our players need to understand that you have to be careful about the information you're putting out on social media, the information that you're talking to people who you really don't know."

Some Big Ten players pointed to the educational efforts on gambling as being helpful, while others spoke of team unity as a strength in avoiding trouble. To Ohio State tight end Cade Stover, a straightforward approach works best.

"Just basically, 'Don't come close to it.' If you want to gamble, don't gamble on that kind of stuff. Don't gamble on NCAA stuff," Stover said. "One, it's not worth it, and two, you're better off to keep your nose clean because once you get that rep, you're not going to outlive that."