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UF's investigation left something to be desired

With the integrity of its athletic program hanging in the balance, the University of Florida was given an opportunity to thoroughly investigate allegations that four of its football players had bet on college and professional football games. Not only is there a public perception that Florida athletics is a runaway train, but for the past two years the Gators have been under investigation by the NCAA _ an organization that pays close attention to how well universities police themselves.

In this latest case, the university should have turned over every stone in order to eliminate any doubt about a shoddy investigation.

Instead, unturned stones are everywhere.

On Friday, Oct. 13 of last year, UF athletic director Bill Arnsparger received an anonymous letter specifically detailing an elaborate betting operation that involved UF football players Kyle Morris, Shane Matthews, G.A. Mangus and Brady Ackerman. The letter stated that Morris, the Gators' starting quarterback, and Matthews, a backup quarterback, had accumulated large debts. It also stated that they bet on Gators games. All four players were allowed to play in Florida's victory over Vanderbilt the next day.

After confronting the players, the university concluded a few days later that while the players

did place bets, they didn't bet on Florida games and they made only small wagers on other games. The players were suspended.

On Tuesday, 3{ months after it began, UF's investigation ended with no new discoveries. On Wednesday, the players were allowed to return to the team.

However, for reasons that remain unclear, the university chose not to interview freshman quarterbacks Lex Smith and Donald Douglas, perhaps the only two witnesses who had direct knowledge of the betting scheme. Smith and Douglas shared hotel rooms with Morris and Matthews, and it was from those rooms that some of the bets were made.

Although UF investigators weren't interested in Smith and Douglas, State Attorney Len Register was. Tuesday, he interviewed the two freshmen. Among the highlights of the interviews were these:

While Morris denied betting on Florida games to UF investigators, Smith said he saw a betting slip with a Florida game on it. After the Gators won the game in which Smith thought the bet had been placed, he approached Morris about it. Smith said Morris told him he deleted the UF game before he placed the bet.

While Morris told UF investigators he placed small bets _ about $25 each _ Smith said Morris bet $300-$1,500 per weekend.

The issue is not so much whether Morris and Matthews bet on games _ although it appears the lesson to be learned from this is that if college football players are going to bet, they should do it in small amounts and on teams other than their own.

The issue is the completeness of UF's investigation. Did the Gators take a thorough, unbiased look at themselves? Or was it damage control?

UF general counsel Pam Bernard, who conducted the university's investigation, said Tuesday she was "delighted" with the information Smith provided. She said it was "consistent with her investigation."

That is a matter of interpretation.