A stat-keeping error that impacted the final score and point spread of a mid-major college basketball game Saturday was spotted by bettors, prompting some sportsbooks to pay out winning wagers on both teams.
The mistake occurred late in the second half of the Illinois State-Chicago State game. A made free throw by Illinois State's Josiah Strong with 49 seconds to play was erroneously recorded as a miss. Illinois State, a 9.5 or 10-point favorite at most sportsbooks, went on to win by nine -- 80-71 -- without the made free throw counting.
Chicago State's athletic department on Monday had identified the discrepancy and was working with the NCAA to correct the score.
According to NCAA director of media coordination and statistics David Worlock, statistics crews and any team scorer keeping their team's book customarily verifies data with the official scorer, who is designated by the referee.
"From our discussion with Chicago State, the NCAA understands the statistics crew's score did not reconcile with the official scorer's score, as is common practice," Worlock said in an email to ESPN. "The NCAA relies upon its institutions to provide the final statistics and ensure their accuracy."
The sports communications departments for colleges typically track statistics and transmit the data to the NCAA's official data disseminator, Genius Sports.
"Genius Sports is the technology provider to the NCAA that facilitates the collection of official data by NCAA Schools on their games," Genius Sports chief communications officer Chris Dougan wrote in an emailed statement to ESPN. "Genius Sports does not determine the official game score, which is decided by the game referee."
Human error from time to time occurs during the stat-keeping process and is often quickly corrected. Sports bettors, who pay close attention, say errors involving halftime scores are the most common, and corrections on individual player stats, like the over/under on rushing or passing yards in football, can sometimes take days to be updated.
"In terms of the actual final game score being incorrect, though, that is very rare," said Jay Croucher, the director of trading for sportsbook PointsBet.
U.S. Integrity, a company that monitors the betting market, sent an alert Sunday morning to its sportsbook clients about the possible scoring discrepancy in Illinois State-Chicago State. However, the erroneous score remained up on both athletic programs' websites Monday afternoon and also could be found on NCAA.com and most major media outlets, including ESPN.com.
Caesars Sportsbook and PointsBet were among the first sportsbooks to announce that they would pay out on any bets that would have been winners at the corrected score of 81-71, while letting the wagers that benefited from the scoring error stand.
The final score in Saturday's Chicago State vs Illinois State College Basketball Game was incorrectly listed as 80-71 Illinois State, when it should have been 81-71.— Caesars Sportsbook (@CaesarsSports) December 13, 2021
With the spread at #CaesarsSportsbook listed at 9.5, Caesar has decided to pay out both outcomes.
"In this case, we've let all bets be winners, the ones that were with the incorrect score and the ones that would've won with the correction," Croucher said. "There's kind of a statute of limitations, where we don't want to basically be coming after people's money two days later, particularly on a game like that."
Betting interest on the game was light and comparable to other mid-major matchups Saturday, so sportsbooks weren't out a lot of money by offering to honor winning bets at either final score. The game wasn't offered by Illinois sportsbooks, which are prohibited from taking bets on events involving in-state programs. But enough bettors were invested to bring the error to light on social media and eventually prompt the bookmaker payouts.
Croucher says statistical errors like the one Saturday are just the cost of doing business.
"If there's an incorrect final score on the Super Bowl a couple of days later, we'll have to see about that," Croucher added with a chuckle.