Florida probes possible gambling
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – An athletic department investigation into alleged gambling by University of Florida men’s basketball standout Nick Calathes found that the player ran up about $600 in online poker debt, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Sources said the investigation did not find that Calathes or other Florida basketball players bet on sporting events, which would be a violation of NCAA rules.
University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley told Yahoo! Sports on Friday the probe did not find any evidence of wrongdoing that would affect players’ eligibility or impact the school.
An NCAA spokesman said online poker is not considered a violation of NCAA bylaws. Under NCAA Bylaw 10.3.2, a student athlete who wagers on sports via the Internet, a bookmaker or parlay card shall be ineligible for all regular-season and postseason competition for at least one year. Any second violation would result in the permanent loss of eligibility in all sports.
“Obviously we were aware of some information before,” said Foley, who declined to discuss any specific players. “Whether it’s this situation here or any situation we have dealt with in my 17 years as athletic director, that stuff is taken very, very seriously. We work diligently to get to the bottom of it, try to leave no stone unturned because you’re protecting the institution, you’re protecting the program.
“The university feels very good about where it is. We do not have a serious issue here based on the information we have.”
Calathes scored 16 points in the Gators’ 80-58 season-opening win over Toledo on Friday. Approximately two weeks ago, a source said a team manager informed other members of the staff of Calathes’ gambling debt. The athletic department questioned all current players and at least one former player, according to sources.
Calathes admitted to playing online poker, but said Friday he couldn’t recall how much money he lost.
“I’m allowed to play online poker,” he said. “I did nothing wrong.”
Gators coach Billy Donovan said he believed the school handled the situation properly.
“We heard the rumors and we reacted to them, responded to them,” the coach said. “We talked to Nick, we talked to our team and Jeremy Foley and Jamie McCloskey handled the whole situation. And I’m not going to talk about anything as it relates to this because nobody did anything wrong.”
On Thursday night, former Florida walk-on basketball player Mike Weisenberg told Yahoo! Sports he was questioned by Donovan and associate athletic director for compliance Jamie McCloskey about his possible role in making or placing bets for teammates.
“I told them that I’ve never gambled on sports,” Weisenberg said. “I’ve never had a bookie or anything like that.”
Weisenberg said he had played online poker and had hosted games at his apartment. Weisenberg said his father Russell took a dim view of his poker playing and the money he spent on it.
“He was giving me money that was supposed to go toward school and living expenses and then he sees me depositing it in an online poker account. He wasn’t happy about that … But I was just going through that whole phase where everybody was playing (poker).”
Weisenberg said he was called by Darren Hertz, an assistant to Donovan, to meet with the coach and McCloskey on Sunday. He said he was told by Donovan that the school was looking into the matter after receiving calls from media outlets with questions about sports gambling by players and about his past legal issues.
Weisenberg was charged in 2004 for possession of marijuana. In 2006, he was charged in a sworn complaint of possession of marijuana with intent to sell and distribute. The charges were eventually dismissed for lack of evidence. In February 2007, Weisenberg was arrested for disorderly conduct after getting into a fight and was eventually fined $300.
“I’ve had some things I’ve done in my past that aren’t good,” said Weisenberg, who said Donovan appeared to be unaware of his legal troubles prior to the Sunday meeting. “That’s kind of why I like hanging out with those guys (Florida basketball players) now. They don’t get in trouble because they all know they have so much to lose.”
When asked whether he met with Weisenberg, Donovan said: “The only thing I’m going to say about this is the unfortunate party in all of this is nobody on our team has done anything wrong and it’s amazing to me how stories can actually be written and talked about when somebody has done nothing wrong.”
Weisenberg played one season for Florida and said he did not go out for the team this season because he didn’t have the time to devote to a role that likely wouldn’t have included much playing time.
Weisenberg’s assertion that he was interviewed Sunday casts doubt on Florida’s previous statements. Prior to Wednesday’s national signing day, school officials denied any gambling investigation was either on going or completed.
On both Tuesday and Wednesday officials said they were confused where the “rumors” were originating from and expressed concern about the timing.
“We don’t know where this is coming from,” basketball spokesperson Fred Demarest said at the time.
On Wednesday the Gators signed the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class according to Rivals.com. The group is highlighted by All-America guard Kenny Boynton.
On Friday, Foley admitted the school began looking into the allegations last weekend.
Stacey Osburn, an associate director of public and media relations with the NCAA, said schools are not required to report investigations in which there is no violation discovered. In addition, she said there is no standard protocol for school’s investigating gambling charges.
“All we say is that schools should follow local laws when conducting these investigations,” she said. “Other than that, if they find a violation, they are expected to report it and if they report a violation they are expected to cooperate fully in the NCAA’s investigation.”
Darren Baxley, the chief investigator with the University of Florida police department, said his department “is not conducting a criminal investigation at this time. However, we’re always willing to listen to and investigate all reasonable leads.”
Baxley, who has been at Florida for 17 years, has a history of investigating difficult cases involving the school’s athletic department.
Baxley led the investigation of former sports agent Tank Black in the late 1990s that led to uncovering widespread corruption, including the paying of college players and the theft of money by Black from the players once they reached the NFL.
In 2001, Baxley also led the investigation into gambling by former Florida guard Teddy Dupay, who was accused of placing bets on sports through another student. Dupay was eventually dismissed from the Florida team, although he was never charged in the case.
Columnist Dan Wetzel contributed to this report.
Josh Peter and Jason Cole are writers for Yahoo! Sports.