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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2008

High school football player apologizes for hoax

ASSOCIATED PRESS

RENO - A prep football player who had claimed he was duped into believing he was recruited to play at a Pac-10 school admitted yesterday he made up the story.

Kevin Hart, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman for Fernley High School, offered a broad apology in a statement he issued through the Lyon County School District. Hart said he had wanted to play football at a Division I school "more than anything."

"When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I made up what I wanted to be reality. I am sorry for disappointing and embarrassing my family, coaches, Fernley High School, the involved universities and reporters covering the story," Hart said.

Lyon County sheriff's detectives had been unable to corroborate Hart's claims that he had been duped by a man he paid to help promote him to college football programs.

Lt. Rob Hall said Hart had not informed detectives of his confession, and they would continue to investigate to see if Hart had broken any laws, such as filing a false police report.

Hart first spoke with deputies Saturday, a day after he announced at a school assembly and a news conference that he would sign with the University of California, Berkeley.

At the announcement ceremony, Hart, with Fernley coach Mark Hodges at his side, said he talked with Cal coach Jeff Tedford many times, and that "personal experience" led to his decision to choose the Golden Bears over Oregon, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

But the announcement was questioned almost immediately, and on Monday officials with California and the University of Oregon said Hart was never recruited.

Hall said Hart had claimed that the alleged promoter he paid was named Kevin Riley, and that he believed he was from Las Vegas. Hart, however, was "unable to provide any phone numbers, addresses," or other contact information for the purported recruiter, Hall said.

"Initially, we thought if this was in fact a hoax or something Kevin came up with, maybe he was trying to put his name out there and create some interest," Hall said.

"Or maybe he just thought it was going to be and when it didn't happen, rumors started and it just got bigger and bigger and he didn't know what to do. That's why we want to sit down with Kevin and talk with him to get his perspective about what happened, where did it start, when did it start."

Hall said detectives will forward their investigation to the district attorney's office to decide whether prosecution was warranted.

Tedford said yesterday he had never talked to Hart and the Golden Bears never recruited him.

"It was total news to me, and it's unfortunate that that whole situation is what it is," Tedford said.



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