TAMPA, Fla. The former University of Toledo quarterback who ran the Rockets offense when a point-shaving scheme allegedly took place, told The Blade there was never anything going wrong at Toledo.
Bruce Gradkowski, who left UT following the 2005 season as the school s all-time leading passer and currently plays for the NFL s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, admitted last week to The Blade that he knew a Detroit-area gambler connected to the point-shaving scandal, but said I ve never witnessed anything suspicious.
The FBI charged UT running back Harvey Scooter McDougle Jr. in March with conspiring with Ghazi Gary Manni, a 50-year-old of Iraqi descent who lives in Sterling Heights, Mich., to fix the outcomes of Rockets football and basketball games from the fall of 2003 through 2006.
The FBI alleged that Mr. McDougle bet on a UT football game, engaged in point-shaving, and recruited other university football and men s basketball players to fix the outcomes of games. In exchange, the complaint alleged, the players received cash, cars, and were entertained by Mr. Manni at a Detroit casino.
Mr. McDougle was the only person charged in the case. Those charges were dropped April 18, but attorneys on both sides say the investigation is ongoing.
Neither Mr. Gradkowski nor any other UT athlete was named specifically by the FBI as co-conspirators or participants in the scheme, but his name was often whispered by people close to Mr. Manni and Mr. McDougle as someone who might have been involved.
In earlier interviews with The Blade, Mr. McDougle s father, Harvey McDougle Sr., wondered why did [the FBI] only charge my son? Why didn t they charge [Mr.] Manni? And why isn t anyone talking to Bruce?
And men who work with Mr. Manni at King Cole Foods, a grocery store in Detroit, have repeatedly said to go talk to No. 7.
Mr. Gradkowski, who wore No. 7 for the Rockets but now wears No. 5 for the Buccaneers, spoke at length with The Blade about the alleged point-shaving scheme, saying that to his knowledge the FBI s accusations were false.
When I was there, the leaders we had on the team I don t think would let that happen, Mr. Gradkowski said. I feel like [Rockets football] coach [Tom] Amstutz, the way he teaches discipline, character, and work ethic, it s a solid program and I hate to see all the criticism they get. But, it s a tough situation.
I know the guys I played with would never jeopardize winning or losing because of something like that. No matter what was said and what not, it s tough.
But Mr. Gradkowski did admit to having met Mr. Manni, and said several of his teammates also knew him.
Similar information was previously provided to and published by The Blade from Mr. McDougle and former UT basketball star Keith Triplett.
Mr. Gradkowski said he couldn t remember how he met Mr. Manni and didn t know the man gambled on sports until the FBI pressed charges against Mr. McDougle last spring.
I m not even sure, Mr. Gradkowski said when pressed about how he met Mr. Manni. It s so hard. I have such a big family, that it s just hard to say how people get involved with someone. You meet someone and you don t have a clue who he is and you get to know him before you know anything else.
Another former UT star and current NFL player Lance Moore, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, also told The Blade this month that he knew Mr. Manni.
I met him through other people. I don t know that it was everyone [who knew Manni]. People get introduced to a lot of people in sports, he s one of those guys that a lot of people kind of met, said the wide receiver and punt returner.
Mr. Moore also said that his roommate in college, former UT offensive lineman David Odenthal, had a father or uncle who was friends with Mr. Manni.
Mr. Odenthal, who now lives in Germany, did not respond to an e-mail from The Blade seeking comment.
Last month, UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said that the point-shaving allegations against Mr. McDougle were, if true, an isolated incident and was not a product of the ethos of [UT s athletic] department.
Since Dr. Jacobs made those remarks, numerous former UT athletes have told The Blade that they and their teammates all knew Mr. Manni, who is said by his friends to be a professional gambler.
Asked if Dr. Jacobs knew about Mr. Manni s relationships with UT athletes when he made his earlier statements, UT spokesman Tobin Klinger said: You re asking me to speculate on what the president was thinking at the time, and I am not in a position to do that right now. And, like I said, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on an investigation that is ongoing.
Contact Joe Vardon at: email@example.com or 419-410-5055.
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