Earlier today, we learned that the FBI is investigating Auburn PG Varez Ward for point shaving. Here's what we know right now.
A quick background on point shaving.
If you're unfamiliar with the term, here's what it means. A player who shaves points intentionally does things to prevent his team from covering the point spread in a given game. It has nothing to do with winning or losing; it's all about the spread. So for instance in one of the games being looked at, Auburn was a five-point underdog to Alabama. Ward turned the ball over six times, more than twice his normal rate, and shot 1-of-5 from the field in an 18-point loss for the Tigers.
Typically in point shaving scandals, a player is bribed by one or more gamblers to get him to do it so they can win bets. As you would gather from the FBI investigation, it is a federal offense.
Auburn itself is not likely in much trouble over this issue.
You never can be 100% sure with the NCAA, but the institution is not likely to be penalized for anything. According to Robinson, a player reported suspicions of point shaving by Ward and Chris Denson. Immediately, the school suspended both Ward and Denson and notified the NCAA and FBI. Denson missed one game before he was cleared. Ward has not been around the team at all since being suspended.
The school reiterated that it contacted the FBI, NCAA, and SEC but for obvious reasons declines comment beyond that. If the allegations are true, they were only the result of one bad apple and not an institutional issue.
Only two games that we know of are being looked at.
The focus is on two games: the February 7 loss to Alabama I mentioned above and the Jan. 25 game against Arkansas. In the latter, Ward turned the ball over the first time he touched it but left the game injured after logging only a minute of play.
Sports betting news source Covers.com says that several Vegas sports books have reported no unusual betting patterns on Auburn basketball. One of its writers notes that AU was 10-2 against the spread prior to Ward's suspension. Of course, that only indicates that if guilty, Ward was point shaving either infrequently or badly (or both) and no bettors made wagers large enough to be noticed.
We don't know where this will lead.
The investigation must run its course before we'll get any information from the FBI on the matter. Auburn has judiciously clammed up as well. Robinson did say that Yahoo! Sports received more information that it must go through before it can decide whether or not to publish it, so there could be more revelations in the coming weeks. It's still too early to tell.