When a report surfaced Monday night that the FBI was investigating several suspended UTEP basketball players, many wondered whether gambling allegations might be the reason.
Sure enough, UTEP corroborated the speculation less than 24 hours later.
In a hastily scheduled news conference Tuesday afternoon, UTEP vice president Richard Adauto announced that leading scorer McKenzie Moore and reserves Jalen Ragland and Justin Crosgile had been dismissed from the program for gambling on sporting events. Moore and Ragland had been suspended indefinitely since Dec. 28, while Crosgile's involvement became known via the FBI investigation.
The only silver lining for UTEP is school officials have not found evidence any of the players bet on Miners games or shaved points. Per NCAA rules, however, any kind of gambling results in a one-year suspension and a loss of a year of eligibility, effectively ending all three players' careers since each are upperclassmen.
"To date, there is no indication of point shaving," Adauto said at a news conference. "They were not betting on UTEP games."
Added UTEP coach Tim Floyd, “We evaluate every film after every ball game. I was not suspicious of any behavior that would suggest they were betting on a UTEP event. There has been no indication of that.”
Floyd initially announced the suspensions of Moore and Ragland after a Dec. 28 victory over Western Illinois, telling the El Paso Times he's "not able to talk about it right now but it will all come out eventually." Only after a KFOX14 story alleging that the NCAA was investigating Moore and Ragland did UTEP come forward with the whole story.
The loss of Moore, Ragland and Crosgile is damaging to a UTEP program that is 10-5 but has endured a bumpy season marred by player defections, upset losses and even a coaching feud.
Moore, a 6-foot-6 junior, averaged a team-high 13.1 points per game and also chipped in 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Ragland, a 6-foot-7 junior, was a rotation player off the bench and averaged 3.7 points per game. UTEP was expected to contend in Conference USA this season, but the shorthanded Miners (10-5) may now have a tough time keeping up with fellow favorites Southern Miss, UAB and Louisiana Tech.
“We have worked tirelessly to try to bring in high character people here," Floyd said. "I’m crushed personally that this has happened, but beyond that, after today I’ve got to go worry about the young men we have here right now and try to do the best job that we can with them.”