Ex-Toledo guard not the first Rocket to face gambling charges
Last year, after former Toledo running back
Smart move: Last week federal prosecutors in Detroit charged ex-Rockets point guard
If convicted, Villegas, 25, who now plays professionally in the Dominican Republic, faces up to five years in prison.
Prosecutors say Villegas met with or talked by phone to an unnamed conspirator 10 times in 2005 and '06 and that on Feb. 4, 2006, he intentionally missed free throws in a 16-point win over Central Michigan. (Toledo was a 15 1/2 point favorite.) The alleged scheme dovetailed with a senior slump in which Villegas, who averaged 13.8 points as a sophomore, averaged only six points. Villegas's play raised eyebrows even then. In January 2006 UT coach
Villegas's agent says his client is cooperating with authorities but wouldn't speak to reporters. Prosecutors did not set a trial date but did specify a sentencing date of Nov. 18, an indication that Villegas may be close to a plea deal. A UT spokesman insists McDougle and Villegas were "isolated" cases.(The charges against McDougle were dropped, but authorities say an investigation is ongoing.)
"We did a pretty intensive review of the culture and ethos of our program, and we have complete confidence," Burns tells
Historically, a vulnerability to gambling and game-fixing has indeed seemed more prevalent among the more modest institutions of college basketball. As seen with similar scandals that embroiled Northwestern and Arizona State's programs a decade ago, the problem, as with crime at large, appears magnetized to money -- or, more precisely, the lack thereof.
"There's definitely a class distinction," Bell says. "It just has to do with simple economics."