According to sources and broken by Yahoo! Sports, the FBI is investigation Auburn point guard Varez Ward for allegedly shaving points in two games during the regular season. The two games were SEC West games, a loss against Alabama on February 7 and a loss to Arkansas on January 25. Since the NCAA and the FBI have been in contact about this situation for the past month, the NCAA has released a statement on Thursday, part of which says the following:
“The NCAA takes any allegation of point shaving very seriously because sports wagering threatens two of our core principles — the well-being of student athletes and the very integrity of intercollegiate sport… As allegations of point shaving, if proven, are also potential federal crimes, the NCAA will defer action until any process with the FBI has concluded.”
|From the Birmingham News and AL.COM. AU point guard Varez Ward|
Ward is a transfer from Texas, in his first year playing for the Tigers after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. Rumors began swirling around when a fellow player told AU coaches that Ward was suspected of point shaving. The NCAA, AU officials, SEC officials and the FBI have been in contact with one another since late February, Yahoo! Sports reported. AU saying in a statement about the contacts and with the early development of this matter, “Auburn is not in a position to make any further comment on the situation”.
After Ward and fellow teammate, guard Chris Denson were suspended for the February 25 game against Arkansas. While Ward has not returned for any game to finish the regular season or in Auburn’s loss in the first round of the SEC Tournament against Mississippi, Denson was only suspended for the one game. While Denson has been allowed to continue play, he has been questioned and cleared by the FBI in the point shaving allegations. AU head coach Tony Barbee only told media outlets that the two student-athletes suspensions were “for violations of team rules”. He has not commented on the new allegations, only to say that he “fully supports” any decision AU makes.
The rumors come to light after what apparently is suspicious play and behavior during the two games in question. Between the Arkansas game on January 25th and the Alabama game on February 7th, Ward scored a total of 53 points in a 3-game span, including 24 points against Mississippi State. Against Arkansas he only lasted 19 seconds before falling to the floor because of a knee injury. Against Alabama, he played 17 minutes, scoring three points and had six turnovers. Vegas odds were five points favoring Alabama, and Auburnwas favored by 9 1/2 points and still covered the spread. Questions are also being filed as to whether Ward tried to involve other players to point shave as well, although Denson was the only other player from AU interviewed and question regarding the probe. While Ward has maintained his innocence and not made any public comments regarding this matter, he has, privately, told people that his cell phone has been confiscated by the FBI and he has taken a lie detector test.
With scandals hitting college athletics in very serious and egregious allegations being levied around several top sports programs in sports, the age old statement is made about what, if much more, can the NCAA do to stop this. Is it serious enough for a student-athlete to point shave to earn extra money? Why will the student-athlete take it upon themselves to do whatever they need or want or feel is absolutely necessary to earn the money that they feel they need? Upon review of this and the scandals that have erupted upon college sports, the NCAA needs to effectively make revisions to their laws and rules to better protect themselves and educate the student athlete. That’s the only way this can stop happening.
Sources and information used in this post from ESPN.com, AL.com, Yahoosports.com. Photos from mrsec.com and The Birmingham News/AL.com.