By RALPH D. RUSSO (AP College Sports Writer)
An Indiana man whose son is a member of the University of Cincinnati baseball team is the bettor at the center of separate investigations that led to the firings of Alabama coach Brad Bohannon and two members of the Bearcats’ baseball staff this month, two people familiar with the inquiries told The Associated Press on Friday.
The people who identified Bert Neff of Mooresville, Indiana, as being connected to both the Alabama and Cincinnati cases spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither was authorized to speak about ongoing investigations.
A number listed as Neff’s cellphone was not accepting calls Friday.
No details were disclosed by Alabama on why Bohannon was let go after five years on the job. However, the firing came three days after a report warning of suspicious wagers on an LSU-Alabama baseball game prompted Ohio’s top gambling regulator to bar licensed sportsbooks in the state from accepting bets on the Tide’s games. Pennsylvania and New Jersey followed suit.
ESPN reported later that surveillance video from the sportsbook located at the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ball Park indicated the person who placed the bets was communicating with Bohannon at the time. ESPN cited multiple anonymous sources with direct information about the investigation.
One of the people familiar with the investigations told the AP on Friday that Neff was the person who placed those bets.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne has since said the university had received no evidence that any players were involved in the situation. A text message to Byrne from the AP on Friday was not immediately returned.
Alabama is competing in the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament this week and is positioned to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Earlier this week, Cincinnati announced that assistant coach Kyle Sprague and director of operations Andy Nagel were relieved of their duties May 17, about a week after the school opened an investigation into possible NCAA violations.
The school did not provide details of what was being investigated and said it would not comment further. Voice and text messages to Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham were not immediately returned.
But one of the people familiar with the situation told the AP that contact with Neff was what led to the firings. It is not known if Neff was wagering on Cincinnati baseball games.
A third person familiar with the Cincinnati investigation told the AP there was no indication games were being fixed or that Sprague or Nagel were betting on games.
Neff’s son, Andrew, is listed as a pitcher on Cincinnati’s roster but has not played this season. The Bearcats’ season ended earlier this week when they were eliminated from the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
One of the people familiar with the situation said Bert Neff has been a youth coach in Indiana with connections to college coaches through recruiting.
He also played college baseball at Indiana and Louisville.
Sports Illustrated was first to report Neff’s involvement with both the Alabama and Cincinnati baseball firings.
The Cincinnati case is the latest gambling-related scandal in college sports this month.
Less than a week after Bohannon was fired, the University of Iowa said 26 of its athletes across five sports were suspected of wagering on sports in violation of NCAA rules. Its cross-state rival, Iowa State, acknowledged that some 15 of its athletes across three sports also are suspected of violating gambling rules.
NCAA rules prohibit athletes, coaches and staff from betting on amateur, collegiate and professional sports in which the NCAA conducts a championship. The rules are under scrutiny as legalized gambling spreads across the country, and the NCAA this week said it was planning an athletes-only survey on the topic.
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