The FBI is investigating suspended Auburn point guard Varez Ward for alleged point shaving.
Point shaving is illegal. It’s the act of deliberately limiting the number of points scored by your team in return for gambling payments.
“We are very concerned by the point shaving allegations involving Auburn University men’s basketball program and have been in contact with the school and the FBI since the issue arose in February,” the NCAA said in a statement. “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.”
Yahoo Sports! reports that the investigation is focusing on two games. On Feb. 7, Auburn lost to Alabama 68-50, even though Alabama was favored by only five points. On Jan. 25, Auburn lost to Arkansas 56-53, but still covered the 9 ½ -point spread.
Coach Tony Barbee suspended Ward and teammate Chris Denson for a Feb. 25 home game against Arkansas. Ward remains suspended. Denson was reinstated after a one-game suspension. It’s not clear if the suspensions were tied to the point shaving investigation or for some other disciplinary matter.
Other Auburn players have been questioned about whether Ward tried to get them to take part in a point shaving scheme.
Ward started 17 of the 27 games in which he played and averaged 8.9 points. He was the third highest scorer on the Auburn Tigers team. But then he started failing on the court.
What follows is highly suspicious behavior:
- In the Feb. 7 loss to Alabama, Ward played for 17 minutes and scored just three points. He was 1-for-5 from the field and 1-for-2 from the foul line. He committed six turnovers.
- Ward even shot an air ball during the game against Alabama. With Auburn behind 43-33 with 15:25 left, Ward committed two turnovers in 21 seconds. When he returned to the game, he made two turnovers in less than three minutes.
- During a three-game stretch in between the Alabama and Arkansas game, Ward had his hottest streak of the season. He scored 53 points, including 24 points against Mississippi State.
- Ward entered the Jan. 25 game against Arkansas with 14:25 left to play. He turned the ball over just 19 seconds later. Then he fell to the floor and left the game limping.
Yahoo! Sports reported that an Auburn player told an assistant coach in late February that he had suspicions of point shaving. School officials contacted the FBI and the NCAA.
There’s no telling how long the investigation will take.