The FBI has exonerated UCLA and its football players in an apparent sports betting probe launched after the Bruins lost their final two games in a bid for a national title last season, the school said Thursday.
"The FBI has assured us that it has no concerns regarding the conduct of UCLA or any of its student athletes," UCLA director of athletics Peter Dalis said in a statement.
The probe was likely initiated after UCLA players were seen with reputed New York mobster Dominic Montemarano on several occasions, a source close to the school, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press.
Initial reports called the probe a point-shaving scheme.
"We scored 40 points a game," UCLA coach Bob Toledo told KMX radio today. "It's a little hard to believe we were shaving points. The FBI investigated stuff and said there's nothing to it."
UCLA was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally and went to the Rose Bowl.
Montemarano, 60, also known as "Donny Shacks," was with 20 to 25 current or former Bruins football players at a Long Beach restaurant on one of those occasions, an unidentified source told the Los Angeles Times.
Star quarterback Cade McNown was one of the players questioned.
McNown said in a statement that he voluntarily underwent a polygraph test, passed it and was told "there would be no further inquiry necessary."
McNown, expected to be a first-round selection in next month's NFL Draft, left the university after the Rose Bowl to focus on preparing for his professional career.
UCLA linebacker Ali Abdul-Aziz said allegations of point shaving were ridiculous.
"It's a farce," he said today. "I can't believe it. We don't know anything about this. We've never had any contact like that. We're not that kind of squad. We would never do that to ourselves."
Dalis said the university notified Bill Saum, the NCAA's director of gambling and agents, of the FBI inquiry and assessment.
FBI spokesman Ray Escudero said he couldn't comment.
Saum was out of town and unavailable for comment, a receptionist at his Overland Park, Kan., office said Thursday. A message wasn't immediately returned.
"We are aware that they (FBI) have been in contact with the school," NCAA spokeswoman Kimberly Dixon said. "The NCAA and UCLA have communicated with regards to this incident and we are comfortable with the actions that are being taken by the school."
| Coach Bob Toledo's football team has been cleared of any wrongdoing. (AP)|
Marc Dellins, UCLA's sports information director, said Dixon was apparently referring to the university's cooperation in the investigation.
"We have cooperated fully with the FBI. The FBI has assured us it has no concerns with UCLA or its players," said Dellins, who refused to name the players questioned by the FBI.
"Law enforcement is involved," Dixon said. "It's more of a legal issue than a NCAA issue."
UCLA finished the season with a 10-2 record, winning its first 10 games before losing at Miami 49-45 Dec. 5. The Bruins then lost to Wisconsin 38-31 in the Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day.
Montemarano was convicted in 1987 in federal court of racketeering charges. He was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison, but was later released from federal custody.
Records show Montemarano has a home in Century City, but there was no telephone listing.
Dellins said Montemarano isn't affiliated with the UCLA athletic department in any way.
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