Gambling Scandal Tests NCAA Backbone. Accuser Still Insists Federer Gave Inside Info

My column on AOL Fanhouse

This is getting harder and harder to sweep under the rug. The NCAA is going to have to see this not just as an inconvenience it can cover up, but instead as an open defiance.

The man who has accused Ted Forstmann, CEO of IMG and one of the most powerful men in sports, of gambling on sports, now says this:

Forstmann continued to bet on college sports even after IMG went into business with the NCAA, purchasing the company that made IMG a giant in college sports licensing and marketing.

Until now, the timing has been the strength of the NCAA’s coverup. Sure, Forstmann might have bet $170,000 on the 2007 NCAA Tournament, and sure he would have done it while negotiating to buy the company that would become IMG College.

But he didn’t actually complete buying that company until a month after placing those bets, as the NCAA has pointed out.

Everyone knows the NCAA’s stance on the ills of sports gambling. Forstmann knows, but he doesn’t seem to feel bound by normal-people rules. If he did continue to bet on college sports, then that would be an intentional shot at the NCAA.

Of course, Forstmann means big bucks to the NCAA. So this will be a test of the NCAA’s backbone and honesty.

Forstmann and his people have said that he stopped his years-long pattern of betting on college sports with the purchase of IMG College.

“The idea that he quit betting on college sports after the 2007 Final Four is outrageous,” said Jim Agate, the man whose accusations against Forstmann have increasingly proved to be true.

Agate talked to me Wednesday for his first published interview since Agate Printing, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Forstmann.

“He bet $3,000 on LSU in the opening (football) game in 2007. He bet on LSU every (deleted) time they played because his old girlfriend, or whatever, went there.

“They played Mississippi State in that game. He won that bet.”

Agate said Forstmann also won the next week, betting on LSU over Virginia Tech. LSU won those games 45-0 and 48-7, in late August and early September. IMG had purchased the licensing company in May.

When this scandal started to take off, the NCAA wouldn’t even put its gambling person on the phone with me. It ran off and hid in the corner, presumably afraid to take on a guy who means a lot of money to a lot of athletic departments.

“IMG was not representing the NCAA in (spring of) 2007,” Wally Renfro, spokesman for the NCAA told The New York Times.

But IMG Coaches was already serving as the agent for several top coaches.

“Any bets that Mr. Forstmann may have made on college sports,” Forstmann’s crisis-management expert, Mike Sitrick, once told me, “would have been made before IMG acquired the business in 2007 that put IMG into the college sports business. He has made none since that time.”

What do you say now, NCAA?

Agate is a whackjob, a nutjob, a lunatic? That’s what Forstmann and his image-makers have been saying all along, creating what would have been a first-class smear campaign if only Forstmann hadn’t kept admitting to his bets, proving Agate’s point, and then changing and reconfiguring his story.

“That’s what’s so silly,” Agate said. “And he’s been caught (changing stories) time and time again. First, he says it’s preposterous, that he doesn’t do these things. Then when people find out what I said was true, Forstmann said, ‘Maybe I did do that, but …’ ”

“I’m the one who has the documentation. And if I’m a psychopath, what kind of psychopath do you hang around with for 10 years?”

Agate and Forstmann were friends for years, and Agate traveled with him, golfed with him.

Bet for him. Forstmann has admitted to that. Their relationship broke off in late 2007.

Agate said he hasn’t spoken publicly until now on his attorney’s advice. But he was becoming concerned that Forstmann was having all the public say, making the narrative too one-sided. Truth: Agate has been dying to talk.

The lawsuit is about business promises, and tax liability Agate says he incurred after Forstmann deposited his gambling money into Agate Printing accounts. He details hundreds of bets in the suit, providing what he says are betting slips from bookies.

He has no such slips in the LSU bets.

So you can take Agate’s word on this, or not. But so far, his story has proved to be true on a lot of things.

Agate said in the suit that Forstmann bet $40,000 on Roger Federer, an IMG client, to beat Rafael Nadal, another IMG client, in the final of the 2007 French Open. He claims he asked Forstmann why he was betting so much.

“He gave me his condescending, ‘Jim, I know what I’m doing. I just got off the phone with Federer,’ ” Agate said.

But are you sure Federer gave inside information?

“When people hear ‘inside information’ they think I’m saying the match was fixed,” Agate said. “I’m not.”

Agate said inside information means Federer gave information that other people didn’t have access to. It’s possible, Agate said, that Federer did it without knowing, thinking he was just talking with a friend.

In one interview, Forstmann said he might have called Federer before the match. Forstmann’s attorneys claim the call was never made.

In the end, though, Forstmann has acknowledged placing the bet, and doing it through Agate.

Tennis has done the same thing the NCAA has, attempting to look the other way.

“The guy owns IMG and had a chance not to have any kind of stigma put on Roger Federer,” Agate said. “What an ego and arrogance of Ted to let Roger Federer deal with that kind of information.”

Agate’s say-so is still not proof. But maybe the NCAA, or tennis, might consider calling Agate to investigate. They haven’t even done that yet.

There isn’t much more room under the rug for this.

Follow me on Twitter @gregcouch

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

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