Bleacher Bits: Youth football program sacked by betting
Every year there are stories about adults at youth football games either getting into fights with opposing parents or coming out on the field to confront officials because they feel 7-year-old Timmy was guilty of a chop block.
But a truly disturbing story came out on the sports websites on Tuesday that drops the bar for grown-up behavior surrounding youth football to a new low.
On Tuesday, ESPN.com reported that nine youth football coaches or associates in South Florida are facing felony charges in connection with conducting a high-stakes gambling ring around the South Florida Youth Football League.
Among the nine men arrested on felony bookmaking charges, six of them are ex-convicts with a history of felony drug, assault and theft charges. One of the coaches has eight felony convictions in Florida alone, including aggravated assault, cocaine possession and grand theft.
I guess the background checks were optional.
The charges resulted from an almost 18-month investigation by the Broward Sheriff's Office that was prompted by an "Outside the Lines" report by ESPN that exposed flagrant betting during the games.
While young boys ages 5-15 were being taught the basics of playing football — and hopefully learning lessons about fair play — grown men were betting up to $20,000 on rivalry games and up to $100,000 was being wagered on the league's championship games.
"They take all innocence away from the game when they involve themselves in these criminal acts," said Detective Solomon Barnes.
The detective reported that not only was the gambling rampant, but that the coaches were the ones promoting and organizing the bets and setting the point spreads on the games.
While most of the betting was done at a barbershop owned by one of the coaches, Barnes said that betting was still done at the games, although the exchanges were discreet.
"We've seen violence escalate at these games," Barnes said. "We've seen shootings, we've seen fights, arguments between coaches, and it's just so unfortunate for the kids that are involved because many of them have no idea. They just want to be part of something that's positive."
In a way they have, because betting on youth football games and making money on the backs of young children is positively repulsive.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.