NEW ORLEANS, La. — Auburn sophomore point guard Varez Ward is reportedly at the center of an FBI investigation in an ongoing point-shaving probe, according to a story by Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports.
Ward was suspended indefinitely before Auburn’s 77-71 loss to Arkansas on Feb. 25 for an “undisclosed violation of team rules.”
“Auburn officials were made aware of a rumor regarding an allegation two weeks ago and immediately reported it to the FBI, the NCAA and the SEC,” Auburn released in a statement Thursday. “Because of the nature of the allegation, Auburn is not in a position to make any further comment on the situation.”
According to the Yahoo Sports report, another Auburn player told the Tigers’ coaching staff about a possible instance of point-shaving. The school then immediately reported the information to the NCAA and the FBI.
Citing a source with knowledge of Ward’s version of events, Al.com reported that Ward has said that federal authorities seized his phone through a court order and questioned him using a lie-detector test about point-shaving allegations he denies.
The FBI field office in Mobile, Ala., told the Ledger-Enquirer Thursday that the agency cannot confirm or deny that a pending investigation is in progress, let alone comment on an ongoing investigation.
Teammate Chris Denson, a sophomore from Shaw, was also suspended before the Arkansas game before being reinstated, was reportedly questioned and cleared of any involvement in the scandal, which led to his reinstatement.
Terry White, who was Denson's high school coach at Shaw and now coaches at Spalding High in Griffin, Ga., still texts his former player periodically, but he said the two never discussed the details of Denson's suspension.
"We haven't talked about the suspension he had," White said. "He kept it under wraps."
According to Yahoo Sports, at least two Auburn games — a Jan. 25 loss to Arkansas and a Feb. 7 loss to Alabama — are under scrutiny in the investigation regarding the allegations against Ward.
Ward went down with an injury shortly into Auburn’s 56-53 loss at Arkansas on Jan. 25.
In Auburn’s Feb. 7 game against Alabama, a 68-50 loss, Ward scored three points on 1-of-5 shooting and turned the ball over six times immediately after a three-game run in which Ward was averaging 17.7 points.
Other Auburn players have also reportedly been questioned about whether or not Ward attempted to involve them in a point-shaving scandal.
According to Yahoo Sports, Auburn contacted both the NCAA and the FBI before reinstating Denson to the team. After being reinstated, Denson posted an apology to fans on Twitter and said it would not happen again.
The NCAA released a statement Thursday confirming that a point-shaving allegation had been made, and that the governing body of collegiate sports was waiting for the FBI’s findings before taking any other action.
“The NCAA takes any allegation of point shaving very seriously because sports wagering threatens two of our core principles—the well-being of student-athlets and the very integrity of intercollegiate sport,” the NCAA stated. “As allegations of point shaving, if proven, are also potential federal crimes, the NCAA will defer action until any process with the FBI has concluded.”
Ward has not commented publicly or used his Twitter account since Feb. 24, the day before Auburn revealed his suspension.