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Worldwide Leader: Oddsmaker Alerted NCAA to Wagers on Toledo

The NCAA hates gambling. And pretty much money in general that does not go to itself. You will never see point spreads on NCAA Football video games, for example, or have the option of buying off a five-star recruit to come to your struggling dynasty at Wyoming, because the Association would pull its licensing quicker than Joakim Noah got up to hug his hottie momma in the stands Monday night. It hates gambling so much, it enlists its top, squeaky clean, totally unpaid stars to make commercials with in-your-face admonishments like "don't bet on it" - a slogan which recently launched a new Web site with a weird registration process that discourages anyone from viewing it - and with less glamorous but more straightforward messages like this, from January:

Somewhere along the line, those efforts paid off, as so few actually do, in one important place: Las Vegas. After the Toledo point-shaving scandal broke over the weekend, ESPN reported early today a Vegas bookmaker is responsible for tipping the NCAA off to "unusually large amounts of money" being wagered on Toledo football games in 2004:

The oddsmaker, Kenny White, chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, said that beginning in the 2004 season he and his associates noticed that there was heavy betting on certain Toledo football games and those of another Mid-American Conference team he declined to name.

"But then it stopped and it was just Toledo," he said.

The unusual betting pattern continued into the 2005 season, according to White. As his suspicions grew, he watched tape of all of Toledo's football games in 2004 and part of 2005.

"We really couldn't pinpoint a single player or coach or official," he said. "But we knew something was happening there."

At that point, about October 2005, White said he filed a report with the Nevada Gaming Commission and the NCAA. His report did not mention basketball games.

FBI agents first uncovered a connection between the Sterling Heights gambler, whom they identify as "Gary," and UT athletes in November 2005...

First interesting note here is that there is a second team mentioned. White also suggests that the alleged gamblers - like the NCAA - were probably exploiting the players for much greater profit than the kid would ever see, and to a far greater extent. Scooter McDougal, who was a starter in 2004 before an ACL injury cost him essentially all of the last two seasons, told the FBI he was offered $10,000 to convince teammates to influence the final scores of some games, which is a lot of money to a sophomore, but not much in the

White declined to reveal the games he believes were affected by the alleged scheme, but he believes the bettors profited largely.

"If they were giving a kid $10,000 to sit a game out, they probably were betting at least $100,000," he said. "I bet you if we tracked the roots, it wasn't one guy. Probably 100 people were in on this knowing what the right side was going to be in those games."

McDougal said no one ever threw a game or altered his play in any way to affect the final score, which is supported by the Rockets' MAC championship in 2004, one of the seasons in question here. Phil Steele's increasingly useful 2006 annual says UT began that season 0-2 against the spread because of 63-point efforts allowed to both Minnesota and Kansas, but wound up 7-4-1 on the season, winning straight up three times as an underdog and never losing as a favorite until an awful bowl loss to UConn. UT only failed to cover once, beating Central Michigan by just five with the line at twenty-four.

The next year, 2005, is more interesting. Toledo had the best record in the conference again by two games overall but was kept out of the championship game on a tiebreaker with Northern Illinois. This time, the Rockets were just 3-7 against the line and lost straight up twice as favorites. Suspiciously, since the story is that players only sought to influence the margin of victory rather than the actual outcome, a few of the straight up wins that failed to cover in '05 only did so by the tiniest margins:

Toledo as a Favorite, 2005
Opponent Line Final Score Difference
W. Michigan UT - 22 UT, 56-23 + 11 (Cover)
at Temple UT - 28 UT, 42-17 – 3 (Loss)
E. Michigan UT - 20 UT, 30-3 + 7 (Cover)
at Ball State UT - 22 UT, 34-14 – 2 (Loss)
Buffalo UT - 30 UT, 38-15 – 7 (Loss)
at C. Michigan UT - 7 CMU, 21-17 – (Loss)
at Ohio U. UT - 10 UT, 30-21 – 1 (Loss)
N. Illinois UT - 10 NIU, 35-17 – (Loss)
vs. UTEP UT - 3 UT, 45-13 + 29 (Cover)

The only player whose name we know, McDougle, did not play in any of those games, but four straight up Toledo wins were losses against the line by one score or less, three of those by a field goal or less:

at Temple: Bruce Gradkowski became Toledo's career leader in yards and completions in the first half, but Temple scores on a meaningless 20-yard touchdown pass with 4:20 to play to make the score 42-17, a field goal shy of the 28-point line.

at Ball State: The Rockets are one point short of covering the 22-point spread with a 27-6 halftime lead. Ball State scores a touchdown in the third quarter, which the Rockets get back in the fourth on an interception return, keeping the score one point from a push. UT's offense does not score in the second half.

at Buffalo: The 5-1 Rockets are huge 30-point favorites over winless Buffalo, but the score is only 17-12 at the half and 24-15 entering the fourth. A pair of touchdown runs in the fourth quarter brings the score within a touchdown of the line, but never threatens to cross it (the final score came with 28 seconds remaining).

at Ohio U. of Ohio: Toledo is up 27-14 and holding a tenuous cover when Ohio scores at the end of a 67-yard drive, cutting the lead to just six on the first play of the fourth quarter. Toledo needs a touchdown to creep back above the line, but only gets a field goal with six minutes to make the final margin nine. Respectable, but one point below the spread.

Not very indicting, because of its circumstantial nature, and because box scores can't show safeties coming up just shy of swatting a pass down. Such accusations are irresponsible without the benefit of the tape, from which White said he gained nothing. There are no awful picks or fumbles among those games. If McDougle or any other players who step forward or are eventually named continue to say they took fabulous gifts and cash and casino dates but didn't do anything in any game to influence the score, and eventually testify to the same effect, there probably won't be any way to dispute them on that point.

Not that an admission of merely accepting very valuable prizes from an interested third party will necessarily keep anyone out of federal prison, or off some kind of NCAA probation. The lesson, as always:

Hell, don't even think about it. Look at that guy. That's "Gary" on a good day from here out.
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