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Kevin Smith

NCAA Running Back Subject of Gambling Probe

6 February 2004

A lengthy investigation by ESPN revealed that Robert Dellimuti, the benefactor for Ohio State's starting tailback Maurice Clarett, had a relationship with Costa Rican sports book SBG Global and could have been betting on football games the week leading up to the Buckeye's 2003 National Championship game against Miami.

The site's owners wouldn't discuss Dellimuti or his account with ESPN, citing customer confidentially, but the network's investigation showed that Dellimuti made 27 calls during the Buckeyes' title season to SBG.

Ten of those calls were made in the three weeks leading up to OSU's Fiesta Bowl victory against Miami. The records don't show whether Dellimuti bet on Ohio State games.

Dellimuti told ESPN that he had gambled on "football" but not on Ohio State games. He insisted he did nothing wrong.

"Everyone gambles," Dellimuti said. "Everyone plays football."

Clarett declined to be interviewed by ESPN, but a statement released through his attorney read: "Maurice certainly did not know of any gambling activity by anyone, including Mr. Dellimuti, that he was in contact with. In addition, Maurice had no reason to believe that any statements that he was giving to anyone were used one way or another for gambling purposes. And he considers any inference to the contrary to be an attack on his integrity and reputation."

The ESPN investigation showed no evidence to suggest that Clarett gambled, shaved points or tried to compromise the result of Ohio State games.

Clarett probably won't face gambling-related penalties, although his relationship with Dellimuti could create problems for him if he chooses to stay in college football.

The tailback received a favorable court ruling this week clearing the way for him to be eligible for the NFL draft in 2004. If he chooses to continue his college career, the NCAA will likely launch an investigation to ensure that Clarett didn't profit, either directly or indirectly from Dellimuti betting and that Dellimuti wasn't getting inside information because of his relationship that he could use to his advantage betting.

Dellimuti became a benefactor for Clarett when Clarett was a freshman in high school and helped the underprivileged kid with odd jobs. The relationship continued when Clarett was at Columbus with Dellimuti giving him odd jobs and paying for his cell phone. If money from gambling was used to help Clarett, he could faces penalties from the NCAA.

William Saum, NCAA director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities, declined comment on the pattern of sports book calls by Dellimuti and his connection to Clarett, citing the organization's policy of not discussing ongoing investigations. The NCAA is currently investigation the use of a loaner car Dellimuti gave to Clarett during Clarett's freshman year.

Clarett's attorney insists that his client was unaware of Dellimuti's sports wagering. But Dellimuti's affinity for Las Vegas, at least, was apparent.

According to Dellimuti, he and Clarett flew there the day after the Fiesta Bowl for a 12-hour stopover before returning to Ohio.

The Clrett/Dellimuti scandal isn't the first one involving high-profile athletes and SBG Global. The bookmaker made it public in March 2003 that customer and National Hockey League star Jaromir Jagr, owed it money. It was also the sports book of choice for Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson, who pleaded no-contest in July 2003 to a misdemeanor gambling charge. McPherson allegedly used stolen money to bet on pro and college games, including games in which he participated.

Officials with SBG said Jagr never placed wagers on NHL games and McPherson only used their site through a friend who was placing the bets for McPherson (so there was no way to track the bets to McPherson).

McPherson's betting habits ultimately led to his dismissal from the FSU team and likely ended his career in college football.

NCAA Running Back Subject of Gambling Probe is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith