The University of Toledo football player who the FBI said earlier this year was at the center of an alleged point-shaving scheme proclaimed his innocence yesterday and said he never recruited other UT athletes to fix games.
Harvey Scooter McDougle, Jr., 22, said the FBI mischaracterized his relationship with Detroit-area gambler Ghazi Gary Manni, who federal agents said in a sworn affidavit conspired with Mr. McDougle to affect the outcomes of UT football and basketball games.
Mr. McDougle broke his silence in an interview with The Blade yesterday his first public interview since charges were filed against him March 29. Those charges were later dropped.
He said he and Mr. Manni were friends and admitted to going to dinner and to a casino with him, but claimed he never shaved points or asked other UT athletes to do so.
What bothers me is [the FBI] seriously thought I was taking all this money and stuff and was shaving points, Mr. McDougle said. There were a lot of things in [the affidavit] that weren t really going on, and that s the crazy part.
Mr. McDougle, of East Cleveland, was charged in U.S. District Court in Detroit with betting on a UT football game and recruiting other university football and men s basketball players to engage in point-shaving.
In exchange, the complaint alleged, these players received cash, cars, and were entertained by a Detroit gambler at a Detroit casino.
Mr. McDougle said he did once meet Mr. Manni at a casino, but was only there to play some games and said he paid for those games with my own money.
All charges against Mr. McDougle were dropped on April 18, but attorneys for both sides said at the time the case against him was not over.
Mr. McDougle, however, said there will be no additional charges filed against him. As a result, he said he should be reinstated to the UT football team.
This whole [investigation] was more against [Mr. Manni] than me, Mr. McDougle said. [The FBI] thought I knew more than I did, and they were trying to get him. To me, he was just another friend, and that s it.
Mr. McDougle said there were other UT football and basketball players who knew Mr. Manni, but they weren t introduced to him by me.
Mr. McDougle told The Blade yesterday he didn t know if the other UT athletes who knew Mr. Manni were shaving points.
One of those athletes, according to Mr. McDougle, was former basketball star Keith Triplett, who last played for the Rockets in 2004-05.
[The FBI] thought that since I talked to Triplett and Manni talked to Triplett, I must have introduced them, but I didn t, Mr. McDougle said.
The Blade s numerous attempts to reach Mr. Triplett, who also starred at Bowsher High School, were unsuccessful.
UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said last week that, if true, the point-shaving scheme at his university was an isolated incident not a product of the ethos of this department.
Mike O Brien, UT s athletics director, declined to comment yesterday on the possibility of other Rockets athletes having contact with Mr. Manni because we haven t received any updates on the case.
Dawn Clenney, a spokesman for the FBI s Detroit office, declined to comment on the investigation or about what Mr. McDougle said yesterday.
I just have to stand by what s in [the affidavit], Ms. Clenney said. The matter is still pending.
The complaint accused Mr. McDougle of recruiting UT football and basketball players to fix games as part of a scheme that began in the fall of 2003 Mr. McDougle s freshman season.
The FBI said at least one player was offered $10,000 to sit out a game and alleged that several players received cash, a car, a phone, and other things of value from Mr. Manni.
Federal agents also accused Mr. McDougle of asking Mr. Manni to place a $2,000 bet for him on UT s game against Texas-El Paso in the 2005 GMAC Bowl. Mr. McDougle sat out that game because of injuries, and the Rockets defeated their opponent 45-13.
According to the complaint, on Dec. 14, Mr. McDougle told federal agents that Mr. Manni had given him cash, a car, and other items in exchange for insider information and introductions to other UT athletes.
But the UT athlete denied changing his play to affect the outcome of a football game back in December, and yesterday Mr. McDougle said he never accepted gifts from Mr. Manni.
Mr. McDougle was at his best as a running back for the Rockets in 2004 his sophomore season and the year he said he was introduced to Mr. Manni by a former UT athlete. He led the team with 620 rushing yards and scored seven touchdowns, helping to lead UT to a Mid-American Conference championship.
Injuries have since limited his playing time Mr. McDougle has just three carries since his breakout 2004 season a fact which he said points to his innocence.
How was I shaving points when I haven t played in two seasons? Mr. McDougle said. And the last time I did play, I rushed for over 100 yards in my last three games and we won the MAC Championship.
Every time I stepped onto the field I played to the best of my abilities, he said.
Mr. McDougle, who has remained in Toledo and said he spent the summer working summer camps for the YMCA, said he is the most upset because he will not be with the Rockets when they begin football practice tomorrow.
Despite the charges being dropped and demands from Mr. McDougle s father and grandmother, UT has not lifted Mr. McDougle s suspension from the football team that has been in place since the scandal first broke.
Mr. O Brien said yesterday that the university would wait to readdress Mr. McDougle s status until the proceedings conclude as far as the FBI is concerned.
But even if the Rockets lifted Mr. McDougle s suspension today, he still wouldn t be able to play because he is currently considered academically ineligible.
Mr. McDougle admitted he began skipping classes after charges were filed against him, but he said he s since made up for his lost time and is on pace to graduate in December with a degree in individualized studies.
He said he is ineligible because a professor didn t post his grade from a business communication class, and he s been working to try to get his grade corrected.
UT spokesman Jon Strunk said the university has until a few days before the first football game to update the status of its players.
The Rockets are scheduled to open their season at home against Purdue on Sept. 1.
Mr. McDougle said if his grade is corrected soon but he is not reinstated to the team, he would transfer to a different school.
Mr. McDougle said he would rather finish out his career at UT, but he gets the feeling the team doesn t want him anymore.
Mr. McDougle said he keeps in contact with the Rockets assistant coaches but not head coach Tom Amstutz and all they can do is tell him he has to wait.
Sometimes I feel like they look at me like I actually did what [the FBI] said I did, Mr. McDougle said. It s like they look at me like that stuff actually happened.
They know better than anybody that I wasn t even playing when this stuff was supposed to happen. It s kind of a slap in the face, he said.
Contact Joe Vardon at: email@example.com or 419-410-5055.