Gambling issue

CHICAGO (AP) — A former Northwestern football player snared in the federal investigation of sports betting at the campus said Wednesday he was a scapegoat for university administrators who wanted the problem to go away.
Addressing a seminar on campus gambling, Brian Ballarini closed his remarks by mentioning something he said has been “burning inside of me” since he left Northwestern almost four years ago.
“You knew that there should have been at least a half-dozen other student athletes right behind me following me out the door,” Ballarini said, addressing his former school. “To this day, I’ve always wondered whether the reason was because I was hurt and I was no longer useful to the athletic department.”
Ballarini said he was directing his remarks to the Northwestern administration and specifically mentioned football coach Gary Barnett and athletic director Rick Taylor. They were Ballarini’s first public comments since his guilty plea last month.
Alan Cubbage, Northwestern’s vice president for university relations, called Ballarini’s statements “nothing but a series of lies.”
“I realize that’s a strong statement, but that’s an accurate statement,” said Cubbage, who was responding on behalf of Barnett and Taylor.
Cubbage adamantly denied that some students were let off the hook.
“We pursued every lead. That’s not us saying it. That’s what the FBI said. That’s what the NCAA said,” Cubbage said.
Cubbage said Ballarini is refusing to take responsibility for his actions, despite his guilty plea.
Ballarini says he was asked to leave school in December 1994 after an internal investigation found that some student athletes were betting on sports. Football player Dennis Lundy was suspended for the final game of the 1994 season, and basketball player Dion Lee was suspended for six games.
The internal investigation was quickly turned over to federal authorities, resulting in indictments and six guilty pleas so far.
Cubbage says Ballarini left school of his own accord, although he was about to be put through the rigors of a student judicial system that could have led to expulsion.
Ballarini, 25, of Chicago is cooperating with the federal investigation of gambling on the campus in suburban Evanston and as part of his plea agreement is required to help the FBI and the NCAA with gambling education programs.
After leaving Northwestern, Ballarini went on to graduate from the University of Colorado and now works as a salesman. He faces a maximum term of one year in federal prison.
He said he began gambling after he suffered a career-ending knee injury at Northwestern and accepts full responsibility for his actions. Still, he wonders why the school did not do more for the “half dozen to a dozen” student-athletes who he said had gambling problems. He suggested counseling might have helped.
“You did absolutely nothing to help us,” Ballarini said of Northwestern. “They turned their back and took the easy way out” by simply driving him out of school and suspending the other players.
Cubbage responded angrily to that statement and again reiterated that Ballarini withdrew from school of his own accord.
“It wasn’t a question of offering any counseling,” Cubbage said. “He was denying that he was involved in it.
“This is a guy who’s lied to us. He’s lied to the FBI. He has no credibility whatsoever.”