Toledo football players say point-shaving probe won’t affect their season

TOLEDO (AP) – Toledo coach Tom Amstutz spoke to his team just once about point-shaving allegations leveled against a former teammate.

“After that it was over,” said tight end Chris Hopkins. “It was done.”

The Rockets, from their coach on down, insist they won’t be distracted this season even though it’s not clear whether a federal investigation will yield more accusations against the team.

Charges against former Rockets running back Harvey “Scooter” McDougle Jr. were dropped in April. But the FBI says the case is still open and they still could refile the charges.

Investigators in March charged McDougle with recruiting Toledo players to take part in a point-shaving scheme orchestrated by a Detroit area gambler. McDougle has denied doing anything wrong, and no other players have been named.

Amstutz said he doesn’t think there is cloud hanging over the Rockets, a team that has been among the most dominant over the past decade in the Mid-American Conference.

“I know my players,” he said. “I trust every player that’s out here on the field today.”

The players say they have something else to prove, especially coming off a 5-7 season a year ago – the school’s first losing season since 1993.

“That’s not the Toledo of the past,” said senior safety Tyrell Herbert, who played in bowl games his first two seasons. “We’re going to do everything we can to get back on top.”

There’s reason for optimism – 18 of 22 starters return. But the first month of the season includes home games against Purdue and Iowa State and a road contest at Kansas.

The returning players say the investigation of McDougle brought them closer together.

Hopkins, an all-MAC selection last year, said the coaches have a 24-hour rule that gives them only a day to celebrate a victory or dwell on a defeat. That same rule applied to how they handled the point-shaving allegations, he said.

“We don’t let outside stuff come in between us,” he said. “It keeps us even tighter even if one of our guys goes the wrong way in life.”

Hopkins said the charges against McDougle didn’t make sense. “I was shocked by it, but I had to flush that,” he said.

McDougle would have been a fifth-year senior on the team, but he was suspended after his arrest. He has since been ruled academically ineligible.

According to an FBI affidavit, McDougle conspired to fix scores of Toledo games. He accepted cash, a car, a phone and other merchandise in return for recruiting players to help in the scheme, the court document said.

He told investigators he never changed the way he played to affect the outcome of games.

McDougle had a breakout season in 2004, leading the team in rushing with 620 yards. But he injured his knee in the conference title game that year and was never the same. He had just three carries over the next two seasons.

“How was I shaving points when I haven’t played in two seasons?” McDougle told The Blade. “And the last time I did play, I rushed for over 100 yards in my last three games.”

Amstutz, who has taken Toledo to four bowl games in six seasons, said all coaches eventually run into challenges with players.

“I understand they’re a part of coaching,” he said. “There’s been very few disappointments. I’ve been a mentor, a leader, a surrogate father for over a thousand young men.”

Amstutz said he received a call a few days after McDougle was arrested from Texas El-Paso coach Mike Price who was fired in 2003 at Alabama after a night of drinking at a strip club.

The two got to know each other at the GMAC Bowl two years ago.

“He’d gone through some turmoil in his career,” Amstutz said. “He said he knew what I stood for and believed we’d get through this situation.”