HOOKED ON BETS?
Before last season, Texas Football coach David McWilliams called his long snapper, senior Tal Elliott, "one of the most important people on our team." Those words now resound with irony. According to some current and former Longhorn athletes, Elliott, who quit the team in November for undisclosed personal reasons, was the center of widespread gambling at Texas. The athletes say that during the past three or four years, Elliott took wagers from them on pro and college football games and other sports. One football player says that Elliott also set up a minicasino in the athletic dorm.
Elliott's alleged gambling activities surfaced last October, when his name appeared on betting slips seized by Austin police in a bookmaking raid. Officer Bubba Cates says the slips indicated that Elliott "was betting $900 a month. I didn't think he had $900 a month to bet, so I told the athletic-department people that he was probably betting for other players."
Police gave the Texas athletic department a list of all 218 names that had shown up on the betting slips so the department could see if other athletes were involved. According to Jerry Slatton, a lieutenant with the Austin vice squad, the force is interested in prosecuting only bookies, not bettors. "The maximum we can get the bettors for is a Class C misdemeanor, and that's all of a $200 fine," he says.
School officials say they found no other Longhorn athletes on the list, but did confront Elliott. "We asked him several times whether other UT athletes had bet, and he said no," says athletic director DeLoss Dodds. Dodds says that Texas told the NCAA about the situation and that after Elliott quit the team, "We closed the case."
But the case didn't go away. In early February the Austin American-Statesman quoted unnamed players as saying that Elliott had placed wagers for at least 20 Longhorn athletes. In interviews with SI last week, athletes said that 20 to 40 football players placed bets with Elliott. One football player, who insisted on anonymity "because these Texas alumni can be awful rough," said he won $8,000 betting on college football games with Elliott in 1988. Says a nonathlete who claimed to have bet with Elliott, "I'm down $500 to Tal right now."
One athlete told SI that Elliott didn't allow athletes to bet on games involving their own teams; others say that Elliott didn't take bets on any sports event involving a Longhorn team. But Elliot allegedly made it easy to gamble on almost anything else. One athlete says that he had been on campus only a few weeks when Elliott came into his room and "asked if I wanted to bet. I said sure." Another told SI's John Steinbreder that he had bet with Elliott and that "you could call Tal anytime, day or night. He'd go home on weekends and make sure you had his number at home so you could reach him."
A football player says that Elliott ran his minicasino in a study lounge in the athletic dorm and that the nightly games included blackjack and craps. "Tal was honest," says the player. "He ran a legit game."
How could all of this gambling go unnoticed? "If you're a UT football player, you get away with a lot of garbage," says former Texas wide receiver Jorrick Battle. Battle and others say that supervision is lacking in the athletic dorm and that the Longhorn football team is on an especially loose rein. "This is a team that badly needs discipline," says Battle.
The Texas athletic department has begun an investigation of the gambling allegations, and last Saturday university president William Cunningham appointed Houston lawyer and former Longhorn football player Knox Nunnally to oversee the probe. Potentially most damaging are rumors that at least one assistant football coach knew of Elliott's activities. If that's true, the NCAA could also begin investigating. The NCAA takes an interest in gambling if an athlete who has eligibility remaining is soliciting bets; if an athlete is betting on sports events involving his school; or if coaches or university officials know of the gambling or are participating in it.
As for Elliott, he's lying low. He graduated in December and is a teacher at a junior high school in Rosenberg, Texas. "He's no longer a football player, and he just wants to get on with his life," says lawyer Mike Orsak, a friend and adviser. Elliott declined to be interviewed by SI, though at one point Orsak did say an interview with Elliott might be possible if two subjects were not brought up: "Gambling and how he put himself through college."
The embattled Dr. Forest Tennant last week asked to be relieved of his duties as the NFL's drug adviser as of April 1. Tennant had been under fire since Super Bowl week, when Washington, D.C., television station WJLA, picking up on an SI story from last summer (July 10), aired reports critical of Tennant and the NFL drug-testing program (SCORECARD, Feb. 5). Tennant's employer, Community Health Projects Inc., which operates drug-treatment clinics in Southern California, had been considering asking Tennant to give up his NFL work because it was bringing the clinics so much negative publicity.
Although it's a positive step, Tennant's resignation isn't a cure-all for the NFL's troubled drug program. In its investigation, SI found irregularities and misrepresentations in nearly every facet of the program. With or without Tennant, the league must strive to make sure such abuses don't recur.
The indecision of prized Morrow (Ga.) High wide receiver Andre Hastings about which college he would attend next fall (SI, Feb. 26) continued until the very last minute. For weeks Hastings had wavered between Florida State, Notre Dame and Georgia. Finally, at about 6:20 p.m. on Feb. 20, just 40 minutes before he was to sign his letter of intent, Hastings said in an interview with WAGA-TV in Atlanta that he was leaning toward Notre Dame. Hastings then went home and changed both his clothes and his mind. "I didn't decide for sure until I sat down to sign," says Hastings. "I finally decided I wanted to stay close to home." His choice: Georgia.
When Constable David Wilson of London's Royal Parks Police was on motorbike patrol in Richmond Park recently, he chased down Constance Scrafield and ticketed her for speeding. What's odd is that Scrafield, a 42-year-old writer, was aboard her 14-year-old horse, Patrick.
Wilson, who says Patrick was going 30 mph up a hill, cited Scrafield for riding the horse "at full gallop." Park rules specify that horses may not be ridden faster than a "hand canter," which is much slower than a gallop. "When horses are loosening up on the track before a race, that's a hand canter," says London parks spokesman Toby Sargent. "She, in effect, was charged with heading for the finishing post rather than loosening up."
Scrafield has appealed her fine (the equivalent of about $80) on the grounds that Wilson got his facts wrong and was out to get her for having galloped in the park in the past. To the delight of the British media, who have made her into a minor celebrity, Scrafield took Patrick to Epsom Race Course last week to prove that he could never run 30 mph up a hill. Sure enough, his top speed on a slightly uphill stretch was 23 mph.
"I freely admit to you that I gallop Patrick," says Scrafield. "He's a good horse. You've got to. But I wasn't galloping him that day. This constable's got it in for me."
IT'S OVER BEFORE IT'S OVER
A small controversy arose at last Friday's USA/Mobil Indoor Track & Field Championships in New York City when the men's mile was declared a dead heat, in 3:57.35, between Steve Scott and Marcus O'Sullivan. Both runners agreed that Scott, with a late surge and lean, had reached the finish-line tape slightly ahead of O'Sullivan. Scott even took a victory lap.
He should have known better. Finish-line tapes for track races are always a few inches beyond the finish line so that they don't interfere with the electronic photo timer, which sits at the actual finish line. "I feel a little cheated," said Scott. "What's the point of having a finish-line tape if it's not where the finish line is?"
Tapes aren't used at outdoor meets anymore. But as Bob Hersh, rules-committee chairman of The Athletics Congress, track's U.S. governing body, says, "Indoors there's a lot of clutter, and different finish lines are used for different races. The tape provides a visual clue for fans and runners."
When asked how Scott, a veteran miler, could not know exactly where to finish, Hersh replied, "The fact is, most athletes don't read the rule book. They show up and run."
FILLING THE PRESCRIPTION
Phar-Mor, a drugstore chain, sponsored an LPGA tournament for the first time two weeks ago. As luck would have it, the winner of the Phar-Mor Inverrary Classic, held in Lauderhill, Fla., was Jane Crafter, a 10th-year pro who's also a licensed pharmacist.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
Elliott: center of attention.
Battle: players lack guidance.
THEY SAID IT
•Pat Williams, Orlando Magic general manager, on NBA commissioner David Stern's new five-year, $27.5 million contract: "All I know is that on airplane trips, David's wallet will be considered carry-on baggage."