FBI investigating point-shaving scandal
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA plans to conduct its own investigation into an alleged basketball gambling ring at the University of San Diego but will wait until the FBI completes its work.
On Tuesday, NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach called the allegations sad, acknowledging the serious nature of the charges that were unsealed one day earlier in San Diego.
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The accused include Brandon Johnson, the school's career scoring leader who is now playing in the NBA Development League, former assistant coach Thaddeus Brown and former player Brandon Dowdy.
Eight of 10 people charged pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court. Six of the eight defendants were granted bail ranging from $35,000 to $50,000.
A detention hearing was expected later this week for Steve Goria and Paul Thweni, who prosecutors say are considered flight risks because they're primary defendants. Johnson, who was arrested in Texas, was arraigned there Monday. Remaining defendant Jake Salter is set to be arraigned Friday.
All are charged with conspiracy to commit sports bribery, conducting an illegal gambling business and distributing marijuana. If convicted, they each face up to five years in prison and $250,000 fines.
Federal authorities have charged them with running a sports betting business to affect the outcome of games.
"The FBI is leading the investigation and we will stand by and let them do their work because they have more tools in their tool boxes to get at what's going on than we do," Lach told The Associated Press. "After they conclude their investigation, we will begin ours."
Lach said FBI officials contacted college sports' largest governing body before the indictments were made public Monday. She declined to say when the NCAA learned of the case.
Point-shaving scandals have occurred before in college sports, but they are rare.
The most notable occurred in the early 1950s when players at 1950 NCAA champion CCNY, Kentucky and other schools were found to have accepted payoffs from gamblers to ensure their teams did not cover the point spread.
The FBI is leading the investigation and we will stand by and let them do their work because they have more tools in their tool boxes to get at what's going on than we do.” -- NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach
Since then, there have been other point-shaving scandals involving college basketball teams at schools such as Boston College, Arizona State and Northwestern.
The NCAA is using everything at its disposal to root out potential problems.
Lach acknowledged that the NCAA has "relationships" with people in Las Vegas who contact the governing body when there are unusual betting patterns. Typically, for college basketball games, that involves a three-point swing once the opening line is established, she said.
"They help us monitor the lines so that if something doesn't look right, we flag it," Lach said. "I'd say that happens not more than once a year, and most times, it's where a line moved and there's an explanation that doesn't involve point-shaving."
But it's not just the big cases at high-profile schools that are getting the attention of NCAA leaders.
"We had an actual case where a student-athlete owed a student bookie a couple of hundred bucks and instead of having him pay it back, the bookie said, 'I have a better idea," Lach said without providing details about the students or the school.
In this case, the 24-year-old Johnson is accused of taking a bribe to influence a San Diego game in February 2010 and then soliciting someone else to affect the outcome of additional games in January -- after Johnson had already started playing for the Dakota Wizards.
The NCAA, Lach said, has repeatedly tried to educate players and coaches about the dangers of associating with gamblers and running up debts.
The most problematic sport, according to a 2009 study, was golf.
NCAA officials have used the catch-phrase "Don't Bet On It" to send a message to student-athletes and use printed and video materials to educate coaches and players about the dangers of gambling.
Now San Diego, a small, Catholic school that plays in the West Coast Conference, finds itself at the center of college sports' newest scandal.
Keith Slotter, head of the FBI's San Diego office, said the FBI investigation evolved from a probe of a marijuana distribution operation that began about a year ago.
Johnson scored 1,790 points in four seasons at San Diego and was on the team that stunned Connecticut in overtime in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament, the biggest win in school history.
"There is nothing more threatening to the integrity of sports anywhere than the uncovering of a point-shaving scheme," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement Monday. "This scheme is especially disturbing because efforts to compromise game outcomes extended over more than one season, involved individuals on more than one team and was successful, according to the indictment."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press