Auburn guard Varez Ward (1) dribbles past Mississippi State guard Brian Bryant (22) during their Feb. 4, 2012, game in Starkville, Miss. Ward was arrested Monday in an alleged point-shaving scheme. (AP Photo)
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Former Auburn point guard Varez Ward has been arrested for allegedly trying to fix games and offering money to teammates to help during the 2011-12 season.
U.S. Attorney George Beck Jr. said that Ward was arrested Monday on counts of bribery relating to a sports contest and conspiracy for allegedly trying to fix the point spread for the Tigers’ game against Arkansas on Jan. 25, 2012.
A federal grand jury indictment last week of Ward was unsealed Tuesday. The one-page document did not list alleged co-conspirators but said the scheme continued after that game. Beck said Ward offered to pay teammates to participate in the point-shaving scheme, which was investigated by the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service.
No attorney for Ward was included in the filing, and the number at the address listed for the player was disconnected. Clark Morris, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said Ward was released Tuesday on $2,500 unsecured bond and had his arraignment set for Thursday in Montgomery.
Ward came off the bench in the 56-53 loss to Arkansas but crumpled to the floor after playing only 19 seconds with an apparent leg injury.
Auburn coach Tony Barbee later said Ward took a knee to the right leg he had injured early in his sophomore season with Texas, when he ruptured his quadriceps tendon on a dunk during pregame warm-ups. Auburn still covered the 9 1/2-point spread, but prosecutors said “Ward’s scheme was to make sure that Auburn ultimately lost the basketball game.”
Ward could face up to five years in prison if convicted and be fined as much as $250,000.
“Watching sports should be entertaining,” said Beck, who praised Auburn for its cooperation. “We want the outcome of the game to be based on talent and hard work, not some off-field, back-room deal. Fixing games not only hurts teammates, but hurts the fans and all viewing public.”
Ward was suspended before a Feb. 25, 2012 game, also against Arkansas, and didn’t play for the Tigers again.
He was averaging 9.0 points a game and leading the Tigers in assists.
“It is obviously an extremely serious situation anytime allegations of point shaving are made,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said in a statement. “When this matter was brought to our attention in 2012, Auburn immediately reported what we knew to the FBI, the NCAA and the SEC. Since this matter is a pending criminal case, it is not appropriate for us to make any further comments.”
In a 68-50 loss to Alabama on Feb. 7, Ward scored three points and had six turnovers while playing 17 minutes. Vegas Insider said Alabama was favored by five points.
Ward was hot in a three-game stretch in between when he scored 53 points, including 24 against Mississippi State.
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