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Teammates tell of big bets by suspended Gator Morris

Published Oct. 16, 2005

University of Florida quarterback Kyle Morris gambled up to $1,500 a week on college football and on at least one occasion listed a game involving the Gators on a betting slip, according to sworn statements by teammates filed Tuesday with the state attorney's office. The testimony was given by UF freshmen quarterbacks Lex Smith and Donald Douglas, who shared hotel rooms where Morris and reserve quarterback Shane Matthews placed illegal bets by telephone last fall with bookmakers.

A UF attorney in charge of the school's 3{-month investigation said she felt it was unnecessary to question Smith or Douglas, but the two players spent 30 minutes Tuesday being interviewed as possible witnesses by Alachua County State Attorney Len Register, who is still investigating the case.

In sworn testimony, Smith said Morris bet between $300 to $1,500 per weekend, and on at least one occasion included a Florida game on a betting slip as part of a three-game wager. Morris later told Smith he never placed the bet on the Gators, according to Smith's testimony. The university investigation also concluded last week that no wagers had been made on Gator games.

Morris told UF investigators he placed "one or two" bets per week of $25 each from early September until Oct. 7 and that he owed bookmakers between $200 and $300. Matthews said the bets ranged from $10 to $100 on a single game. Matthews described the wagering as "casual betting." The university investigation said the players bet mostly small amounts.

Smith, however, told the state attorney Tuesday that "Kyle said he couldn't quit, having lost that much money." Placekicker John David Francis, who police allege placed bets on National Football League games, previously told school investigators that Morris and Matthews had lost "thousands."

UF general counsel Pamela Bernard, who conducted the university's investigation, said she found no inconsistencies between her report and the statements made by Smith and Douglas Tuesday.

"The nature of the information I consider consistent with our report," Bernard said. "In fact, it corroborates what we found. I'm delighted."

Morris, who quarterbacked the Gators to a 5-1 start last season, was among four players suspended for gambling in October. (The others were Matthews and walk-ons G.

A. Mangus and Brady Ackerman.) University officials received a letter Tuesday from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regarding the possible reinstatement of the players, but refused to release it, citing a federal law that protects the confidentiality of student records.

The university had recommended to the NCAA that Morris and Matthews be reinstated to the football team and allowed to participate in spring football practice.

"I'd just assumed he had bet on other games and served his time," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said of Morris. "I knew that they were meeting today and I know they wanted to talk about Kyle Morris and all that gambling business.

"I don't have all the answers to that yet. I don't know what the NCAA or the state attorney's office would have to say about this."

According to NCAA director of enforcement David Berst, the university will have to determine whether the state attorney's investigation will affect the players' eligibility.

"The first step would be to visit with the institution and then the institution would determine what would be done," Berst said. "It would be up to them to determine that. The NCAA has made its findings."

The NCAA has been investigating the football and basketball programs at Florida for more than a year. During that time, head football coach Galen Hall and head basketball coach Norm Sloan were forced to resign.

Four players were questioned by the state attorney Tuesday in Gainesville _ Smith, Douglas, Francis and punter Hank Rone. Police said there was evidence that Francis and Rone had placed bets over the telephone on NFL games, but both players denied gambling with bookmakers and offered to take polygraph tests, according to statements filed with the state attorney Tuesday.

According to an investigative report released by the university last week, Morris and Matthews placed bets on college football games by telephone from their hotel rooms during Gator road trips last season. Although Smith and Douglas were never implicated in the gambling scheme, UF investigators questioned Morris and Matthews about any possible involvement by their roommates, the report said.

Douglas and Smith both declined to discuss their statements made Tuesday. Morris and Matthews could not be reached for comment.

"We were called in (by state attorney Register) and talked about everything," Smith said. "He didn't leave very many closed doors. I don't think it'll be a real long time until it's made public, but until then, I'd rather keep it quiet."

Bernard said that despite questioning suspects about possible involvement by Smith and Douglas in the gambling scheme, she never had a sufficient reason to interview the two freshman quarterbacks.

"There were two reasons I asked about (Smith and Douglas)," Bernard told a St. Petersburg Times reporter Saturday. "One, the other fellows were quarterbacks. And two, I was concerned we'd have two players on the field who were involved. But because of the consistency of the information, we made the judgment it was not necessary to interview them and I feel very comfortable with that."

"Every investigator has to make a decision where to end the investigation. Again, we did not feel, based on all the information we had, that there was an indication they were involved in any way or would have any knowledge of the situation. If we had the slightest indication to the contrary, we would have done follow-up interviews on those two players."