Entries in Football (24)


Florida Youth Football Coaches Allegedly Bet on Own Games

Pictured left to right: Brandon Bivins, Darron Bostic and Dave Small (Broward County Sheriff's Office)(MIAMI) -- Nine men have been arrested in Broward County, Fla., and charged with felony bookmaking for illegally gambling on youth football games, as well as professional and collegiate sports.  The county sheriff said the arrests came after an 18-month investigation.

Code-named Operation Dirty Play, the investigation, authorities said, revealed that South Florida Youth Football League coaches, team affiliates and even one team president set bets before games.  Players in the league ranged in age from 5 to 15.

"For the youth league Super Bowl, the pot was more the $100,000," said Dani Moschella, spokeswoman for the Broward Sheriff's Office.

According to ABC News affiliate WPLG-TV, six of the nine men charged have previous felony arrests for drugs, assault and theft.

"These kids are so precious, and to have people with criminal histories like these hanging around them, acting as mentors and coaches is disturbing," Moschella said.

Gambling operations were run out of two local businesses -- Showtime Sports in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., and Red Carpet Kutz Barbershop in Lauderhill, Fla. -- that served as fronts for the illegal betting.  While gamblers would mostly place bets on professional and collegiate games at these locations, detectives discovered bets were placed on youth football games as well.

Officers executed search warrants at the two businesses on Monday.  Only some of the men arrested were charged with keeping a gambling house, according to a statement from the Broward Sheriff's Office.

"If you walked through the back door [of Red Carpet Kutz], it was a bustling, very active gambling house with three windows," said Moschella.  "It looked like a barber shop but they didn't cut hair there."

Moschella said that Brandon Bivins, the coach and president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, set up the barber shop.  According to his arrest affidavit, Bivins was also the president of Showtime Sports, the other business used as a front for gambling.

Moschella said that the investigation began after the Broward Sheriff's Office received a tip from ESPN back in May 2011, following a series the network did on gambling on youth football in South Florida.

"They brought us footage and asked us about it," she said.  "Until that time, we didn't know it was happening."

Moschella said the surveillance footage shot by ESPN for the program Outside the Lines showed people openly exchanging money in the stands based on what was happening in the games.  But the ongoing investigation revealed that the scheme was more intricate.

"We had no idea that it was going to be the people closest to the kids," said Moschella.

The nine men arrested are currently in custody in Broward County Jail.  Their bonds range from $15,000 to $50,000.

While this case involved one league, there are five youth leagues in Broward County alone.

"The investigation is ongoing and this is just the starting point," Moschella said.  "We're really hoping to get participation from parents and other people at football games to get more information."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High School Football Ban Proposal Under Attack in New Hampshire

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A retired New Hampshire doctor and school board member has caused an uproar with his proposed ban on high school football, saying the game is too dangerous for underage students.

High school football is an American institution, so when Dr. Paul Butler advanced what many people believe is a radical idea at a sparsely attended meeting in Dover, N.H., the former high school football player caused a commotion near and far.

"We have a moral imperative to at least begin the process of ending this game," Butler told ABC's Good Morning America.  "The literature is clear.  This is a dangerous game for children to be playing."

The local news media soon got wind of Butler's idea, and coverage of his notion that the beloved Dover High School team -- The Green Wave -- has to go, quickly went national.

Big blows taken on the football field can be the equivalent of taking a sledge hammer to the head, according to ESPN.  And it's not just in pro football.  New studies show that minors who play high school football, even Pee Wee League football, are also exposing themselves to the dangers of head trauma.

"A game that uses the head as a battering ram is not a smart game to allow a youngster to play," Butler said.

Critics of his proposed ban include the school board chairman and the local newspaper.

Butler admits that he lacks the votes to ban football right now, but given the mounting evidence, he adds, his proposal is a first step toward the inevitable.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Judge Rules in Favor of Biblical Verses on Texas High School Football Banners

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KOUNTZE, Texas) -- When the Kountze Lions take to their home field Friday night in Kountze, Texas, to play football against the Newton Eagles, the Kountze cheerleaders will already have a win under their belt in the battle for religious freedom.

A Hardin County district court judge issued an injunction Thursday to allow the Kountze High School cheerleaders to continue to display banners bearing biblical verses at high school football games.

State District Judge Steven Thomas ruled that the school district's ban on Scripture verses on the banners at games violated the cheerleaders' free speech rights.

The squad is allowed to display the messages until June 2013, which is when there will be a full trial, said Mike Johnson, senior counsel for the Liberty Institute, a religious liberties defense organization that's representing the cheerleaders.

"This gets us through the football season," Johnson said. "We have four more games, including tomorrow night."

The cheerleaders filed a lawsuit against the Kountze Independent School District and superintendent Kevin Weldon in September, after the school banned them from including religious messages on the banners.

This was the first year the squad had started putting biblical verses on the large, white paper banners held up for the football team to run through before games, said Liberty Institute spokesman Gregg Wooding.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, said the organization was hoping to challenge the decision in federal court.

The religious liberty organization got involved in the case when a member of the Kountze community contacted it after seeing biblical-verse banners displayed at a game.

"This is school-sponsored speech and [the cheerleaders] represent the school," Gaylor said. "They aren't just speaking as individuals."

Gaylor said she was surprised by the news conference held by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday, who both voiced their support for the cheerleaders and urged them to continue their fight against the district.

Abbott filed a motion to intervene in the case on Wednesday to "ensure [the cheerleaders'] freedom of expression in Kountze, Texas," and commended the cheerleaders for "standing up for a principle that is a fundamental right for students in this state, as well as Americans across this country."

"They shouldn't be using their power to create a hostile climate against a minority," Gaylor said, referring to nonreligious Texans.

Thomas had previously granted a temporary restraining order on Oct. 4 that allowed the cheerleaders to continue to display Scripture at games until a final decision was reached.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Football Coach Charged After Allegedly Flooring Opposing Player

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- A youth football halfback in Utah was headed for a touchdown this past Saturday that would have broken a tie in one of the last games of the season.

At that moment, the opposing team's volunteer coach allegedly stepped onto the field in Payson City, Utah, and struck the 13-year-old player down -- leading to the coach's arrest.

"What I saw was the Payson player running toward the Mapleton sideline," said the game referee, David Durrant.  "What I saw was the Mapleton coach didn't even try to move.  He just raised his arms and hit him with his forearms, is what it looked like."

Durrant threw a yellow flag.  At that point, Nathan Harris, the assistant coach for the Mapleton City's football team, was thrown out of the game.

Harris was arrested that following Monday by Payson police.  The father of six now faces a second-degree felony child abuse charge over the allegation that he hit the seventh grade football player -- a charge that is punishable by as many as 15 years in prison.

"From watching the video [of the game] several times and having other people, such as the county attorney, [watch], and putting together witness statements," said Det. Sgt. Lance Smith of the Payson Police Department, it looked like "the Payson player was running down the sideline and the male individual who was assisting the coaching team struck the boy in the chin with his forearm and backed away and declined to offer any assistance to the boy."

An overwhelming majority of officials from the City of Payson seemed to believe that Harris was in the wrong.  However, Harris' attorneys claimed possible bias in the story.

"Local law enforcement did a shoddy investigation and are interviewing hometown fans," said one of Harris' attorneys, Rhome Zabriskie.  "The video released by law enforcement seems to be doctored and edited.  Conveniently, the video cuts off right after the boy hits the ground giving the impression that the boy gets knocked out."

According to Durrant, "The player got up and went to his own sideline," after his fall and went to the hospital after the game, which Payson City's football team won with a field goal in overtime.

The young football player has since been diagnosed with a concussion because of the run-in with Harris, reported ABC News' Salt Lake City affiliate, KTVX-TV.

"Mr. Harris felt bad that the boy is hurt," said Zabriskie.  "At the same time, he had no time to react.  He had his two little boys standing behind him and no time to react."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pop Warner Coach Suspended For Bounty Program

Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The president of the Tustin, Calif., Pop Warner football league and the coach of an elite team there have been suspended while the national organization investigates allegations that 10 and 11-year-old  players were offered cash incentives as high as $50 to intentionally injure their opponents.

“We take this matter very seriously and have asked Tustin Pop Warner head coach Darren Crawford and Tustin President Pat  Galentine to step down until this situation is finalized,” executive director of Pop Warner, Jon Butler, said in a statement.

With a 12-1 record last season and an appearance at the Pop Warner Super Bowl, the Cobras were formidable opponents.

But according to allegations from some players and parents, the team was playing dirty.
Although an investigation by the Orange Empire Conference, where the complaint was initially filed, found no wrongdoing, National Pop Warner officials decided to reopen the case “in light of new information and players coming forward,” Butler said.

A local designee not affiliated with the program has been asked to spearhead an investigation that is expected to last several weeks, according to Pop Warner officials.

Parents claimed that Crawford and former assistant coach Richard Bowman paid players when they took out their opponents in playoff games.

In one instance, a Cobras player was allegedly paid after a running back from Santa Margarita suffered a mild concussion and had to leave the field, the Orange County Register reported.
Crawford and Galentine have denied the allegations of a bounty program at Tustin Pop Warner.
Interim president Mark Gutierrez said he was “deeply saddened by claims of an alleged bounty program at our league” in a letter to parents.

“It is important that our children have the opportunity to play football in the most supportive environment possible,” he said.

Earlier this year, an NFL investigation found the New Orleans Saints operated on a pay-for-pain system from the 2009 season, when they won the Super Bowl, until 2011.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Anger Grows over NFL Replacement Refs After Seahawks-Packers Game

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- Football fans have had enough and are demanding that the NFL bring back its regular referees, who were locked out before the season started because of a contract dispute.

The last straw may have come Monday night on what was technically the second-to-last-play of the Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers game when the much maligned replacement referees allegedly blew the call in the end zone.

With Seattle down 12-7 and almost no ticks left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary pass as receiver Golden Tate was surrounded by a mob of Packers.

As the ball came down, Green Bay's M.D. Jennings jumped up and grabbed the interception.  Or so everyone thought.

Tate fell down with Jennings, grasping for the ball that the Green Bay safety had cradled in his arms.

The refs ran over and ruled a completion for Seattle, giving them a 13-12 lead.  After 10 minutes, in which a replay inexplicably vouched for the refs' bizarre call, enough Packers returned to the field so that the Seahawks could kick the extra point, sending the hometown fans home happy but angering just about everyone else.

After three weeks, the consensus is nearly unanimous that the replacement referees have done a terrible job and the NFL needs to negotiate in good faith with regular crews to get them back on the field for the next full slate of games this Sunday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NJ Boy Quits Football Team over Pink Gloves

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People across the country are rallying around a 12-year-old New Jersey boy who quit his football team after the coach refused to let him wear pink football gloves to support his mother, who is battling breast cancer.

The boy, Julian Connerton of Egg Harbor, N.J., plays for the Egg Harbor City Crusaders, a youth league.  As the team was getting ready Saturday night to play the Ocean City Junior Raiders, the coach, Paul Burgan, told Connerton he couldn’t play while wearing the gloves, the Press of Atlantic City reported.

“No one knew that there was a personal reason why the kid wanted to wear the gloves … The game was ready to begin in minutes, and it was a communication issue. There was a storm.  It was chaotic,” Louis Barrios, a member of the Crusaders Youth Athletic League Association’s board of directors, told the newspaper, adding that the team is allowed to wear pink in October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Connerton's family has said the coach was aware of the boy’s mother’s health problems as she recently had a double mastectomy.

A message addressing the issue was posted on the team’s Facebook page on Sunday.

“The Exec Board of the Crusaders Organization is aware of the unfortunate miscommunication in OC.  The board and coaches have the utmost respect for FAMILY.  We are gathering facts, and are very confident that this misunderstanding will be resolved,” the message read.

Another message followed.  The latest one, posted on Tuesday evening, said the situation had “been resolved.”

“We are looking forward to Julian returning to practice tomorrow.  All are looking forward to Julian representing The Crusaders as a breast cancer awareness spokesperson.  All are pleased the situation has been resolved,” the post read.

The incident has produced a public outcry. Some people called for Burgan to be fired or face sensitivity training.  Others demanded that Connerton receive an apology, while others said they believed the incident stemmed from a misunderstanding and had been blown out of proportion.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Purple Heart-Winning Army Vet Playing Football for Clemson This Fall

Clemson SID Office(NEW YORK) -- Sports fans may refer to the football field as a place of battle, but Army Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez knows better.

"When I go to school I think of it as such a blessing to be alive.  I thought I was going to die," said Rodriguez, 24, of Clemson, S.C.  "If I die tomorrow, I'll live life to the fullest.  I don't complain anymore.  Sometimes I catch myself thinking something and then remind myself: hey, you're not in Afghanistan."

Rodriguez, a starter on the special teams for the Clemson Tigers this fall, spent four years in the Army and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He fought in a major battle in the mountains lining Pakistan, the Battle of Kamdesh, in October 2010.

"It was definitely an environment of combat," he said.  "I was furthest north on Pakistan border, rough terrain, we didn't have showers, one meal a day, we washed ourselves with baby wipes, there was fighting constantly.  We lived pretty much in a cave in the side of a mountain, and we ended up getting overrun, five months into our tour, during the Battle of Kamdesh."

Rodriguez took a bullet in his shoulder and shrapnel in his leg, though he says now that he was lucky compared to some of his best friends.  Eight soldiers died in the battle, and 21 were injured.  Rodriguez was awarded 16 medals for his bravery and service in the Middle East, including the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Purple Heart, and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

It was his time in the Army that shifted his perspective on life in the United States, Rodriguez told ABC News.  When he returned home, he began taking classes at a community college and playing football again, rising early each morning to train.

His friends encouraged him to make a highlight reel to impress college coaches, as high school athletes sometimes do, but Rodriguez felt that old highlights wouldn't showcase who he had become.

"I hired a production company to kind of shoot me working out, doing drills, and then they had me putting in highlights, and me telling my story," Rodriguez said.

He sent the video to schools, but they requested he make it easier to view and share, so he uploaded it to YouTube as well.

"The next morning I had 6,000 views.  Within a month it had 300,000 views," he said.

Clemson coaches, along with coaches from about 50 other college football programs, contacted Rodriguez.  He also received dozens of emails, text messages, and letters from fans that had seen his YouTube video; he replied to almost all of those messages, he said.

This summer, he began playing first-string on the special teams for Clemson.  He has played in two Atlantic Coast Conference games so far, helping the team score its first two victories.

"It's what motivates me," he said.  "A lot of people come back from war with the factor of what they've seen and gone through and it cripples them, but I find it liberating and inspiring.  I mean the horrors of war are real, I've lost over 20 friends to war.  But we fought for our country and now I can come home and do what I always wanted to do."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former NFL Players Filing Massive Concussion Lawsuit Against League

Scott Boehm/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- A landmark class action lawsuit is being filed Thursday morning in Philadelphia against the National Football League by former players who allege the NFL has misled them for decades about the risks of brain injury.

In the lawsuit, the athletes charge "the NFL exacerbated the health risk by promoting the game's violence," and "deliberately and fraudulently" concealed the link between concussions and long term brain damage.


The NFL vehemently denies those claims, saying, "Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit."

One of those players is Kevin Turner, who played fullback for the Philadelphia Eagles.  He can remember two documented concussions and believes he suffered long-term brain damage from his years plunging into the line.

"There was just no focus on the most important part of your body, which is your brain," Turner said.

On Thursday morning he is joining more than 2,000 other former NFL players who are suing the league in the biggest sports lawsuit ever filed.

Concussions have become football's number one issue, with some of the sport's biggest stars suspected of killing themselves because of the damage done.

Last month, Junior Seau, a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, was found dead in his home after taking his own life.  Dave Duerson of the Chicago Bears and Ray Easterling of the Eagles are also among the suicides that have raised questions about football's unbridled violence.

With some of the sport's household names now revealing the human price paid for all those on-field hits, this massive lawsuit could change the game forever.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Four TCU Football Players Arrested in Drug Bust

Comstock/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- Seventeen Texas Christian University students, four of which are football players, have been arrested on drug charges Wednesday during a raid on and around the school’s Fort Worth campus.

Marijuana, cocaine, molly (a powdered and more potent form of ecstasy), ecstasy pills and prescription drugs including Xanax, hydrocodone and the heavily addictive painkiller OxyContin were among the illicit drugs police allege students were selling to other students, often on campus in fraternity houses.

“I was first shocked, then hurt and now I’m mad,” head coach Gary Patterson said in a statement. “Under my watch, drugs and drug use by TCU’s student-athletes will not be tolerated by me or any member of my coaching staff. Period."

“The Horned Frogs are bigger and stronger than those involved,” he continued.

Linebacker Tanner Brock, who led the undefeated Rose Bowl champion 2010 team in tackles and was expected to anchor the team’s defense in the coming season, was arrested along with teammates D.J. Yendrey, Tyler Horn and Devin Johnson.

The arrests are a rare black mark for a football program known for its unusually clean record. The Horned Frogs were the only team in the 2011 preseason Top 25 with no players on its roster with criminal records, according to a Sports Illustrated report. TCU and Oklahoma University are reportedly the only schools to perform background checks on recruits.

“I don’t think it’s a football problem,” Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. said during a news conference. “It’s four people on the football team. We don’t know anymore yet.”

“We were targeting dealers. We were not targeting the average student,” said Capt. Ken Dean of the FWPD. “We were targeting individuals who were actively selling and making money doing this.”

The suspects are all alleged to have participated in “hand-to-hand delivery” of drugs to undercover agents. Police said no student “confidential informers” took part in the six-month investigation.

Captain Dean would not reveal how those targeted for arrest were picked out, but did hint that investigators had looked at social media platforms used by TCU students.

Police say the investigation is ongoing and could yield more arrests both on and off campus.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio