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March 8, 2012

Ward allegations

Auburn University declined to comment Thursday on the Yahoo! Sports report involving allegations of point-shaving involving Auburn guard Varez Ward.

"Auburn officials were made aware of a rumor regarding an allegation two weeks ago and immediately reported it to the FBI, the NCAA and the SEC. Because of the nature of the allegation, Auburn is not in a position to make any further comment on the situation," a statement from Auburn Athletics said.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported on Thursday that Ward is under investigation by federal authorities in an ongoing point-shaving probe.

Robinson wrote:

"Three sources with knowledge of the case said the FBI has been investigating Ward since late February after he and guard Chris Denson were suspended by the Tigers prior to a Feb. 25 home game against Arkansas. Two sources said Denson was also questioned as part of the point-shaving investigation, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to the team after sitting out the loss to the Razorbacks.

"The sources said additional players have been questioned in the case about whether Ward - who has not been with the team since being suspended - attempted to enlist them in a possible scheme. The sources said at least two games are under scrutiny: a 68-50 loss to Alabama on Feb. 7 and a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on Jan. 25."

According to Robinson's report and Auburn University, the school immediately contacted the FBI, NCAA, and the SEC to notify them of the allegations.

Ward and Denson were both suspended on Feb. 25 for the Tigers' home game against Arkansas. Denson was reinstated for Auburn's next game at Alabama on Feb. 29, while Ward remains indefinitely suspended as Auburn enters the SEC Tournament.

Robinson said on Yahoo! Sports radio that Auburn tried to avoid the scandal within by contacting the FBI and moving on without Ward since they learned of the allegations.

Robinson also said in regards to the NCAA and potential punishment for Auburn, as long as the school is open and takes the proper steps to notify the FBI, NCAA, and SEC of the allegations and goes through proper protocols to let the news out, Auburn isn't likely to be penalized by the NCAA.

"I don't see any way for Auburn to be penalized for this," Robinson said. "They became aware of the potential of something going on, from what we're told, they moved very swiftly to get this taken care of. There's not been any indication whatsoever that Auburn University was in the wrong."

The fact that the FBI is investigating the Arkansas game on the road is interesting, since Ward was injured within the first few minutes and failed to return.

Point-shaving is a federal offense, and Auburn, nor the NCAA, will be able to defend Ward is he's found guilty.

Late Thursday afternoon, the NCAA released this statement regarding the allegations surrounding the Auburn basketball program:

"We are very concerned by the point-shaving allegations involving Auburn University men's basketball program and have been in contact with the school and the FBI since the issue arose in February. The NCAA takes any allegation of point shaving very seriously because sports wagering threatens two of our core principles - the well-being of student-athletes and the very integrity of intercollegiate sport. As allegations of point shaving, if proven, are also potential federal crimes, the NCAA will defer action until any process until any process with the FBI has concluded."

A timeline of the last two weeks events:

Feb. 23, Auburn learns of point-shaving allegations and immediately reports to the FBI, NCAA, and SEC.
Feb. 25, Ward and Denson are suspended for Auburn's home game against Arkansas.
Feb. 27, Auburn contacts IMG Academy (Fla.) guard prospect Brian Greene Jr. for the first time.
Feb. 29, Denson is reinstated for Auburn's road game at Alabama.
Mar. 4, Greene Jr. commits to Auburn after an official visit.
Mar. 8, Yahoo! Sports reports the FBI is investigating a point-shaving scandal involving Ward.

Report: Sources: Auburn's Varez Ward at center of federal point-shaving probe

Audio: Charles Robinson talks about the Auburn basketball allegations

Audio: Robinson says Auburn wasted no time in reporting the allegations

Audio: Robinson talks about motivations for point-shaving

Audio: Robinson expects no penalties for Auburn basketball



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