Any football fan (American football, that is) knows that the University of Alabama is a juggernaut. Going into the season the Crimson Tide were listed as about 2-to-1 favorites to win the national championship and from the pre-season through November, bettors wagered on them to win it all, risking money on a relatively poor payout for what they viewed as a sure thing. And last week, the FanDuel sportsbook made those future bets a sure thing, announcing that everybody who had bet on Alabama to win the national championship before 5:00pm ET on November 30th are already winners; their bets will all be paid out before the championship is even settled.
“It has been a dominant season for the Crimson Tide and our traders have seen enough,” FanDuel said in a press release on Friday.
And “seen enough” is not overstating it. Until Saturday’s SEC Championship game against Georgia. Alabama had beat every opponent it had faced this season by at least 20 points. It struggled with Georgia, but Georgia was the fourth-ranked team in the country and the game was in Atlanta. And, of course, Alabama still won by a touchdown, making a comeback with its backup quarterback after the starter went down with an injury.
Had Alabama lost, it still would have made the four-team college football playoff, but still, FanDuel is paying off bets more than a month ahead of time. The playoff semifinal is on Saturday, December 29th and the championship is Monday, January 7th.
At the time of the press release, Alabama was listed by FanDuel at -280 to win the title, which meant that in order to win $100, someone would have to bet $280 on Alabama. Those odds are down to -250 right now, probably because of the loss of the team’s starting quarterback (the backup, though, was last year’s starter and has played plenty this year because of all the blowouts, which is probably why the line didn’t change a ton).
“Alabama’s historic and seemingly inevitable march to Levi’s Stadium deserved a history making gesture to our customers,” said Mike Raffensperger, CMO of FanDuel Group, in the announcement. “While the college football season has not had too many surprises, we wanted to surprise our customers today, thank them for their loyalty, and prove there are More Ways to Win on FanDuel.”
Any bets that have Alabama as part of a parlay are locking in Alabama as a winner already.
If Alabama does not win it all, FanDuel estimates that it will lose about $400,000 on this decision. So what is the point of doing it? It seems like unnecessary generosity. If I had to guess, this looks like marketing move. It’s good PR. If Alabama wins the championship, FanDuel is out nothing at all and still gets any goodwill it has coming to it for the gesture. If Alabama loses, resulting in FanDuel paying out tickets it wouldn’t have otherwise, it’s a $400,000 public relations stunt.
Either way, I wish I would have placed my Alabama futures bet.