One man’s gambling activity is the connective thread between simultaneous NCAA investigations of baseball teams at Alabama and Cincinnati and the subsequent firing of three coaches, Sports Illustrated has learned.
Multiple sources say that Bert Eugene Neff Jr., of Mooresville, Ind., placed wagers that raised suspicion at the sportsbook in the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati before an Alabama-LSU baseball game on April 28. Sportsbook surveillance indicated Neff was in communication with Crimson Tide coach Brad Bohannon at the time he placed the wager, sources say. Bohannon was fired May 4.
Two Cincinnati staffers, assistant Kyle Sprague and operations director Andy Nagle, were terminated May 17 for what sources say was knowledge of Neff’s gambling activity, which the men did not report to school administrators. The school launched an internal review on May 8 and publicly acknowledged the dismissal of Sprague and Nagle on May 24. It is not clear whether Neff placed wagers on Cincinnati games.
Neff’s son, Andrew, is a pitcher on the Bearcats’ baseball roster, along with Andrew’s former Mooresville High teammate Tommy O’Connor. Bert Neff, a former college pitcher at Louisville and Indiana in the 1990s, has been involved as a coach and administrator over the years with youth baseball teams in central Indiana. Sources describe him as well connected within the youth baseball and college baseball realms.
Neff did not immediately respond to a request for comment. While Cincinnati’s dismissed coaches could not be reached for comment, the school itself referred to its original Wednesday statement when contacted by SI.
When reached for comment, an Alabama spokesperson referred back to the school’s original statement on May 4, which stated the school will have “no further comment at this time pending an ongoing review.”
Neff’s gambling activity could also have criminal reverberations that go beyond the NCAA inquiries.
NCAA rules prohibit athletes, coaches and staff from gambling on any sport in which the association sponsors a championship. NCAA vice president of enforcement Jon Duncan this week told SI that gambling-related infractions cases are “spiking” in college athletics. In addition to the Alabama and Cincinnati cases, Iowa and Iowa State announced they have suspended a combined 41 athletes as part of an investigation into sports wagering.
“You can throw a net and get any number of schools [committing sports wagering violations],” Duncan says. “They’re hot right now.”
Sources said authorities were alerted to additional suspicious wagering in Indiana around the April 28 Alabama-LSU game. The Crimson Tide scratched their scheduled starting pitcher for that game, staff ace Luke Holman, because of back tightness. He was replaced by Hagan Banks, who hadn’t started a game since March 16. LSU beat Alabama, 8–6.
Despite the upheaval of losing its coach, Alabama has played well in recent weeks. Through Thursday’s play in the Southeastern Conference tournament, the Crimson Tide are 10–3 since Bohannon’s dismissal.
Cincinnati’s season ended with a 24–33 record. The Bearcats were eliminated in the American Athletic Conference tournament Wednesday by East Carolina.