See no evil
How much did FSU know about its QB's alleged betting?Posted: Friday April 04, 2003 12:35 PM
Updated: Friday April 04, 2003 4:22 PM
By Mike Fish, SI.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As he sank into a seat inside his first-floor apartment in the Burt Reynolds Complex, Nick Menacof said he had not heard the rumors that a prominent member of the Florida State football team had been involved in gambling. Mr. Nick, as the players affectionately call him, supervises the unofficial FSU jock dorm that houses all the Seminoles' first- and second-year football players as well as the team managers. While the player in question, quarterback Adrian McPherson, lived in Reynolds, no one had told Menacof to keep his eyes and ears open for betting activity.
"No, nobody mentioned to me anything about gambling," said Menacof, shaking his head.
Last spring, FSU administrators were told that McPherson was gambling. Not only that, the information came from at least two student managers, both of whom also lived in Reynolds, a two-story, white cinder-block complex that sits barely a stone's throw from Doak Campbell Stadium and the athletic department offices.
In early August, the beginning of preseason practice, one FSU administrator confronted McPherson with the reports, and passed along the gambling rumor -- as well as McPherson's strong denial -- to the NCAA.
From there, the university halted its inquiry, and informed very few people inside the football program, until late November, when McPherson was suspended from the football team after being linked to a stolen blank check that was cashed for $3,500.
The stolen check episode touched off a broader gambling investigation by a multi-agency law enforcement task force, and last month McPherson was arrested on a misdemeanor gambling charge. The 19-year-old also faces four felony charges related to the theft of the check from an auto customizing shop, as well as charges that he wrote a string of other bad checks.
According to documents that have been filed during the course of the investigation -- which is continuing -- FSU administrators, including athletic director Dave Hart and head coach Bobby Bowden, were told as early as last May or June of the quarterback's possible involvement in gambling. The documents state that the accusation against McPherson was lodged first by student equipment manager Jeff Inderhees and his father, then, shortly after, by another student manager, George (Mike) Pellicer.
Last month, Inderhees himself was charged with felony bookmaking. Among his clients, say police, was McPherson. Inderhees, 21, has entered a not-guilty plea in the case. In a sworn statement to police, Pellicer said that he and McPherson regularly gambled on college and pro sports during the time they lived in Reynolds Hall. Pellicer is not facing charges.
Since McPherson's suspension and the beginning of the gambling probe, FSU officials have tried to focus the spotlight solely on him. "I don't have any concern that our football or any of our other athletes are involved [in gambling]," associate athletic director for compliance Bob Minnix said to SI.com last month. "It is isolated to a person."
The FSU campus police, who are directing the task force that includes Tallahassee police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, may yet conclude that McPherson was the only FSU athlete to be involved in gambling. But documents from the probe and dozens of interviews conducted by SI.com over the last two months indicate that, in addition to McPherson, three student managers in close contact with athletes were wagering with an on-campus bookie. The documents also indicate that another individual, 23-year-old Derek Delach, a 2001 FSU graduate, ran a bookmaking operation from an off-campus apartment and a bar across the street from FSU, and that McPherson, Inderhees, Pellicer and two other managers placed bets with him.
When the task force investigators questioned Inderhees, he was asked how McPherson had first connected with Delach. "I guess [he's] the bookie for the athletes," Inderhees told them. "And he knows a lot of athletes." In his statement, given under oath to investigators, Inderhees recalled telling Minnix, the compliance director, back in August that McPherson was "in debt to a bookie for $8,000."
According to an account from another football player interviewed by police, the player sold Delach his parking pass for home games last season. And the brother of a baseball player told police he had run up a $1,750 gambling debt with Delach last fall.
The sequence of events outlined by the task force documents raises troubling questions about FSU's oversight of its athletes and student managers. Given the fact that FSU administrators had been tipped to McPherson's gambling as far back as May, it is clear that the athletic program was slow to act on the rumors and equally lax in following up on a potential scandal. The documents also confirm that among the officials who were told of the gambling rumors and McPherson's alleged misuse of credit cards, not one reported the possible criminal activity to police.
In fact, during their interviews with administrators Hart and Minnix, task force investigators lashed out at them for their failure to take notes during early interviews of McPherson, Inderhees and sophomore wide receiver Dominic Robinson, a close friend of McPherson's. The investigators questioned whether Hart and Minnix were deliberately attempting to avoid outside scrutiny of their program.
When Robinson gave his own sworn statement to the task force, he said, "Adrian is a friend of mine… but it didn't seem like [Minnix] was trying to help Adrian, to help Adrian along, and help him to get better. It was more like he was just trying to make sure that the, you know, the program wasn't brought down. The program wasn't tarnished in any way."
Nothing in either the investigative documents or the interviews suggests an attempt by anyone to influence the outcome of a game. Still, the ingredients were in place: A young athlete -- McPherson -- playing the position with the greatest potential impact on the outcome of a game, was allegedly $8,000 in debt to a bookie.
Managing to find troubleIn early December, after the gambling investigation began, the two managers, Pellicer and Inderhees, told police they had been placing bets with Delach, who was living off-campus with former FSU baseball player Mike Futrell. Brandon Myers, a senior football player ruled academically ineligible before last season, had roomed with Delach in 1999 and 2000. Both Futrell and Myers told police they were aware that Delach was taking bets, and provided the investigators with significant details about how Delach allegedly ran his bookmaking operation. They both denied any participation in either bookmaking or gambling.
On March 4, Delach was charged with felony gambling. He has entered a not guilty plea, and refused to discuss any aspect of the case with SI.com.
During the course of the gambling investigation, at least four football student managers -- Billy Pickens and Brent Pease, in addition to Inderhees and Pellicer -- admitted that they gambled on college and pro sports. These same managers told police that McPherson routinely wagered from $500 to $1,000 per game.
At FSU, as at many other schools, football student manager is a coveted job, and the managers are given scholarships through the athletic department. The FSU managers who have admitted to placing bets lived among the football players in the Burt Reynolds Complex. Pellicer and Pickens graduated in December, while seniors Inderhees and Pease were forced to move from the dorm last month, though both are still enrolled in school. All four of the managers involved chose not to comment, although Pellicer told SI.com, "I'm just really scared this is going to hurt me."
Of the Seminoles' nine student football managers, Inderhees was the closest to McPherson, according to full-time equipment manager Dave Delegal. In an interview with SI.com, Delegal said that no one had told him that managers he oversees might be involved in gambling with the team's quarterback until after McPherson was kicked off the team.
When the NCAA begins to investigate the McPherson affair, it may ask why Florida State waited nearly six months before aggressively acting on the information it obtained last spring from its own student managers.
At the same time, FSU can take comfort in the fact that, in the recent past, universities have largely avoided NCAA penalties in cases where athletes have been found to have been betting.
Says athletic director Dave Hart, "No doubt in my mind [the NCAA] will be very satisfied, and are satisfied with what transpired."
(The NCAA responded to questions about the FSU investigation after this article was posted.)
Two former NCAA directors interviewed by SI.com question whether the NCAA will proceed with a thorough investigation of the FSU program. They point out that Bill Saum, the NCAA's director of gambling activities, has spoken at on-campus gambling seminars arranged by associate athletic director Bob Minnix, Saum's one-time supervisor at the NCAA.
Digging deeperIn their interviews with police, FSU athletic director Dave Hart and associate athletic director for football operations Andy Urbanic both said they had had conversations with Minnix about the McPherson gambling rumors in May or June. Minnix, whose responsibilities include gambling issues, disagrees. He told SI.com that he first heard the rumors from Urbanic when two-a-day practices began in early August. Minnix said that he followed up by conducting interviews with McPherson, Inderhees and Robinson. McPherson and Inderhees denied their own involvement in gambling. According to the task force documents, Robinson, who also denied involvement, told Minnix he believed that his friend McPherson was heavily in debt to a bookie.
"One of the things I was looking to find out was if there was a bookie hanging out somewhere, taking bets on campus," Minnix told SI.com.
When the task force investigators asked Minnix for his gut feeling at the time to McPherson's denial, Minnix said: "That . . . Adrian was lying."
Nevertheless, Minnix's talks with McPherson, Inderhees and Robinson put an end to the school's inquiry into McPherson's gambling until late November, when officials were forced to confront it on the heels of the quarterback's alleged involvement with the stolen check. By that time, the Seminoles were 11 games into their season, with an 8-3 record.
On Nov. 23, McPherson was allowed to start against North Carolina State even though, the day before, he had told several coaches that he might be in trouble over the stolen check. The two former NCAA directors who spoke with SI.com said that McPherson's confession should have seriously alarmed any FSU administrator who had been told of McPherson's gambling months before. But Minnix told SI.com he was not informed about the stolen check until after the game, saying: "I first read it in the newspaper."
Minnix finally began asking questions, as well, and found some answers close by. Minnix told investigators of a conversation he had in late November with one of his own compliance assistants, Jill Gran. "We were sitting there talking," Minnix recalled. "I said this is ridiculous that we can't find out who [the off-campus bookie] is.
"She said, 'Derek -- everybody knows Derek. You know, that takes bets . . . and hangs out with the baseball guys, spends most of his time down at Ken's [bar]."
Though McPherson has denied that he is a gambler, police have compiled evidence to the contrary. At least nine individuals provided sworn, tape-recorded statements linking McPherson to betting on sports. Investigators also seized gambling records from a computer belonging to Delach, as well as another laptop computer McPherson allegedly used to wager on the Internet.
Even before McPherson was charged, his attorney -- Grady Irvin -- made a striking observation about his client in a conversation with SI.com. Referring to the former Ohio State quarterback whose gambling addiction has shattered his life, Irvin said, "Adrian McPherson might not be Art Schlichter, but he could have been Art Schlichter."
In the case investigators are building against McPherson, statements from witnesses indicate he began placing bets with Delach in January 2002, just after his freshman football season.
At the same time, McPherson was allegedly getting bets down in his dorm with Inderhees, one of the managers. In his tape-recorded statement to police, wide receiver Robinson said he recalled hearing McPherson tell Inderhees, "Give me a hundred on Duke."
Several witnesses said Delach stopped taking bets from McPherson in March 2002, after the quarterback had run up an $8,000 debt. By August and the start of his sophomore football season, McPherson had gained access to an Internet account and was gambling on college football and the NFL. Friends of McPherson's told police that McPherson had taken his action to a Costa Rica-based Internet gaming site, SBG Global, where he would place bets on as many as eight to 10 college football games each weekend.
McPherson made frequent visits to a house near the FSU campus, that was rented by high school friends of McPherson's from Bradenton, Melvin (Smurf) Capers Jr. and Otis (Obliza) Livingston. According to Capers and Livingston, the three friends used a laptop to place bets. Documents indicate that McPherson, Capers and Livingston wired money to Costa Rica to fund three separate accounts. McPherson made sure his name wasn't linked to an account. Instead, the bulk of his wagering was on the account listed to Capers.
In February, investigators used a search warrant to seize the laptop computer, and sources said the hard drive contains the betting history with SBG Global. McPherson may also have used other computers to place bets last football season.
McPherson is said to have built his winnings to as much as $1,700. But, say these sources, more often than not he lost and would have to wire money to keep betting.
The goal of the three Bradenton friends was to hit it big one Saturday afternoon, to win "eight grand" -- something Capers said one of the managers had done.
But the quarterback never came close. On Oct. 19, a week after Miami eked out a 28-27 win against Florida State, Capers recalls McPherson thinking the Hurricanes were a lock to cover the 17-point first-half spread at West Virginia. His hunch would cost him $1,000, as the Mountaineers only trailed 17-7.
Investigators say Livingston offered a sworn written statement in which he "implicates McPherson in betting on all of the Florida State University football games for the 2002 season." The statement also says that McPherson always bet on the Seminoles to win.
But Livingston told SI.com he doesn't know all of the details of McPherson's Florida State wagering, saying that when he provided the statement, "[Police] were telling me, 'cause I didn't know how to write it."
(If McPherson was betting on Florida State against the point-spread, he was more often than not a loser. In the 12 games played before he was dismissed from the team, the Seminoles covered the spread just four times.)
Livingston went on to say that he's certain McPherson bet on at least some FSU games, including a 34-24 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 26, the week before he won the starting job. McPherson didn't come by the house as frequently after that, Livingston said.
McPherson's friends also told SI.com they aren't sure he bet on his last game as a Seminole, a 17-7 loss at North Carolina State on Nov. 23.
However, investigators subpoenaed cell phone records belonging to McPherson that indicate his phone was used to call SBG Global twice on both Nov. 18 and 22.
McPherson's performance in that game was dreadful. He completed just eight of 20 passes for 80 yards. FSU's 162 total yards was the worst ever under head coach Bobby Bowden.
Was it just one of those games? Perhaps, but McPherson also had a lot on his mind. He had slept fitfully the night before the game, grappling with how to explain his alleged theft of that blank check from a Tallahassee auto customizing shop.
Watching the game on TV back in Tallahassee, friends could see the pressure eating at McPherson. It wasn't the fiery old A. D. His shoulders were slumped, his head bowed even after some completions.
"They're trying to tie him to fixing the game," says Capers. "He probably placed bets, but he didn't blow the game.
"Why would he blow a game? He was trying to win the last five games. Get that job next year. He was looking at one [full] year starting, then after his junior year going to the NFL. That was the plan."
Mike Fish is a senior writer for SI.com.
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