A federal grand jury investigating big-time bookmaking in this area heard testimony today from a former Memphis State University athletic director and from one of the biggest boosters of the school's basketball team.
Billy (Spook) Murphy, a former athletic director now a special assistant to university President Thomas Carpenter, and Bud Davis, a Memphis car dealer, declined comment after emerging from the grand jury room at the Federal Office Building.
U.S. Attorney Hickman Ewing said the grand jury would meet again Tuesday and was likely to meet at least one day next week. Other than that, he declined comment about the secret investigation, which began after a bookmaking raid by FBI agents on March 23.
Murphy has been the only Memphis State employe subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, according to Ben Hale, a retired FBI agent who became the university's adviser on drugs and gambling three weeks ago. Hale said Murphy is a witness, not a target of the investigation. Davis' attorney said his client also is just a witness.
The possible ties to the university became a hot local topic last month when Nick Belisomo, a Memphis pawnbroker, Memphis State booster and friend both of Murphy and Memphis State basketball Coach Dana Kirk, was subpoenaed to testify.
Kirk has denied any improprieties. He says the fact his team won the NCAA Midwest Regional last season, along with recent allegations of point-shaving involving players at fellow Metro Conference member Tulane, have caused the local investigation to be blown out of proportion.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that the grand jury is investigating possible ties between the bookmaking operation, the Colonial Country Club and the university.
All five witnesses before the grand jury today are members of Colonial. The other three were local businessmen Vince Authement, Charlie Rodgers and Billy Plyler, all of whom said they were witnesses, not targets.
Although Hale said, "Nothing has surfaced (at Memphis State) that would be of any monumental consequence of any kind" to warrant criminal prosecution or NCAA probation, the Memphis State athletic program also is under fire from other directions: An audit by the State Board of Regents indicated the university awarded athletes $58,940 more than allowed under NCAA rules between 1980 and 1984. William Bedford, center on the basketball team, was involved in an automobile accident while driving a Jaguar lent by a Memphis State booster. Boosters' lending cars to athletes is a violation of NCAA rules. The Golden Tigers boosters club, which operated outside of university fund-raising controls, is being disbanded. In the future, all athletic fund raising will be handled through university channels.
Hale said he is acting as an adviser and not an investigator for the university. He said the NCAA has not notified Memphis State about beginning an investigation there.