Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Flying Dangerously Under the Radar: The Toledo Point Shaving Scandal

In all forms of reporting, timing is the name of the game. In most cases, a point shaving scandal would be at the top of the reporting docket. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your interests), CBS has had all of its eggs in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament basket and ESPN has followed suit along with overhyping the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

Point shaving is a serious deal, and Toledo is not a regular middling college football program. They are consistently in the running for the MAC Championship and have sent numerous student athletes to the NFL, including Chester Taylor, Kelly Herndon, Bruce Gradkowski, and Nic Kaczur.

The Point Shaving Scandal
Last Friday, an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit said Harvey "Scooter" McDougle, Jr., a running back on the Toledo football team from 2003-2006, was among other unidentified football players who participated in a point-shaving scheme in return for money. McDougle and other co-conspirators allegedly accepted money and other "things of value to University of Toledo athletes" to influence or attempt to influence the outcome of games.

FBI agents first uncovered a connection between the Sterling Heights gambler, whom they identify as "Gary," and UT athletes in November 2005. Gary” allegedly invited athletes to gamble and dine at Greektown Casino in Detroit. When FBI agents questioned McDougle on Dec. 14, 2006, he told them Gary offered an unnamed UT player as much as $10,000 to sit out a game or number of games but did not say whether the player did so, according to the affidavit. Other players received groceries, merchandise, and other gifts.

During one call in December 2005, McDougle said he would talk to other players and see if they could make money on a game between Toledo and UTEP in the GMAC Bowl, the complaint said. Toledo steamrolled to a 45-13 victory and McDougle did not play in the game, as he was injured for much of the 2005 season.

A Las Vegas oddsmaker said Monday night that he alerted Nevada gambling authorities and the NCAA last summer about unusually large amounts of money being wagered on University of Toledo football games.

McDougle was arraigned and released on a $10,000 bond. He faces a stiffer penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

The Bigger Picture
This is a black eye on college football. No one wants a like this happen. If point shaving occurred at a BCS school, a story like would have owned the sports airwaves only a few minutes after “One Shining Moment” finished playing on CBS. Instead, it has gone under dangerously under the radar, and only scratching the surface in print and on the radio.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, more information will be divulged about the scandal. What we do know is that a lot more than $10,000 was up for grabs in the scandal. As a rule of thumb offered by Kenny White, chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sports consultants, if $10,000 is being offered up to sit out a game, then they are probably betting ten times that amount at a very minimum. Furthermore, it’s likely that there are a multitude of individuals behind this ring.

In my limited perspective, a major issue is what Myles Brand will do to address this latest scandal at the NCAA level. My skepticism tells me a few statements from the NCAA and nothing close to steps towards eliminating gambling from the collegiate landscape.

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