Youth Coaches Face Gambling Charges

Paula Lavigne, ESPN, October 30, 2012

Nine youth football coaches or associates in South Florida are facing felony charges in connection with a system of rampant, elaborate and high-dollar gambling on little league football.

The charges are the result of an almost 18-month investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office into gambling on youth football, an investigation called “Operation Dirty Play” prompted by “Outside the Lines” reporting that exposed flagrant betting during games in the South Florida Youth Football League.


Six of the nine facing charges—men who coached boys ages 5 to 15—are ex-convicts with a history of felony drug, assault and theft charges. If found guilty of felony bookmaking—essentially organized gambling—each could face up to five years in prison.

Though the games featured little boys, the gamblers made big bets, said Det. Solomon Barnes, whose confidential informant, along with undercover deputies, placed bets on youth football during the police investigation. Barnes said $20,000 was bet in a rivalry game between the Northwest Broward Raiders and the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes a few weeks ago. And up to $100,000 would be bet on the youth leagues’ championship games of the season, he said.


The initial “Outside the Lines” story in May 2011 showed people exchanging money in the stands and along the sidelines in plain view of fans, children and even law enforcement. One coach swapped cash with other men at a playoff game. When “Outside the Lines” returned in December 2011—after league officials said they would work to deter gambling—the flagrant betting seemed to be gone. But as detectives would later learn, the publicity only pushed the illegal wagering further underground.

Not only was the gambling in full force, Barnes said, but the coaches were the ones promoting and organizing the bets and setting point spreads on the games. {snip}

The detective said he and others witnessed two coaches taking bets on the sidelines of a game involving their own teams, another having collected a wad of cash that he waved in front of the players indicating how much was riding on them. Dozens of men crowded into a backroom gambling parlor where a special window serves those wanting to bet on youth games.

[Brandon] Bivins was coach and president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, one of the most successful youth football teams in South Florida. An affidavit describes Bivins as the owner of a barbershop that served as the front for the gambling parlor frequented by several other coaches.

“At the end, maybe close to about practice time, he would leave there and drive straight to Mills Pond Park, grab his whistle and start coaching the kids,” Barnes said. Bivins also has a long rap sheet, with eight felony convictions in Florida alone, including aggravated armed assault, cocaine possession and grand theft. Barnes said the conflict is troubling.


Sheriff Al Lamberti said deputies discovered a floor safe in the barbershop that had $37,000 in cash in it. He said that $20,000 in cash—along with firearms—were found in Bivins’ house.


In the wake of the arrests are the children on whose backs these coaches have made thousands of dollars, Barnes said.

“They’re pretty much taking the illegal gained money through their criminal enterprise or criminal activity . . . and they’re placing these large sums of monies on youth football,” Barnes said. “We’ve seen violence escalate at these games, 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 a part of something that’s positive.”

Barnes said it’s likely that the gambling was such a force in youth football that it actually led to the creation of a new league. After the ESPN “Outside the Lines” report, South Florida Youth Football League president Mike Spivey vowed to stem the gambling, even going so far as to have coaches watch the ESPN report before they could get recertified. He also hired more off-duty officers to police the games.

Barnes said that the crackdown appears to have prompted some team leaders, including Bivins, to leave before the current season and form a new league called the Florida Youth Football League. The FYFL gained quite a bit of media attention when it was formed because it receives backing from rap artists Flo Rida and Luther Campbell.


Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Puggg

    Gambling on boys (young boys, say under 12) playing football is probably the most pathetic bottom of the barrel form of gambling around.  Unsurprising that those doing it and making book on it are black; that kind of stupidity fits them to a tee.

    I played Pee Wee for one season, the fall I was 9 years old.  The reason I didn’t stick with it is because it bored me.  Here I was seeing this complex convoluted game on TV every Sunday with strategy that would make Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest blush, but youth football is basically kiddie pool (of course, because kids play it) football.  Sure, a lot of things look the same:  The same field with the same yard dimensions, the same uniforms, gear, helmets, the same ball, most of the same rules, but kids playing it the way kids are made to play it isn’t really football.  They take the boy with the strongest arm and make him the quarterback, the fastest boy and make him the running back, and the biggest boy and make him the center.  Every play is QB takes the snap from under center, and then either hands off to the RB or makes short passes to an eligible receiver.  Everyone else on offense and everyone on defense is just warm bodies haphazardly running around in the general direction of the ball carrier. 

    I figured by the time I got to high school, the game would be more real, and indeed it is.  It isn’t until high school that football that you have anything close to complex strategy and plays and playbooks played by young men that are almost full scale physically speaking.  However, during the first day of tryouts for the freshman team in high school, I knew my football dreams were kaput. 

    • My mother’s eldest brother’s wife had a lot of relatives with “problems,” which she tried to help them through by having them stay at her house.  One day, I was there, too, and she caught one of her cousins hiding a 120-proof bottle of whiskey under a bed.  I’ll never forget what she had to say to him if I live to be a thousand years old:

      120 proof?  Thats’ 60% alcohol by volume!  Rubbing alcohol is 70%!  You know what this means?  You’re only ten percent away from being pathetic.

      Gambling on single digit age boys playing football (such as it is) is right at 70%.

      • Puggg

        Youth football is basically a teaching tool.  The boys get to pretend they’re doing the same thing as the grown men they slobber over on TV every Sunday, all the while they’re supposed to be learning how to engage in teamwork, delaying individual gratification for the good of the whole, insert all the after school special buzzwords here.  Of course, with certain (ahem) demographics, it really doesn’t work out that way.  Point is, it’s insane to gamble on kiddie pool football as if it is professional football.

      • Spartan24708

        Hopefully that straightened her cousin out but probably not. It is pretty pathetic that adult men are betting on kids football.

  • What isn’t mentioned is that these young, impressionable kids are being recruited by the local gangs and given money and candy to play well.  The gangs bankroll the best players and then the players become dependent on the gang to support their lifestyle.   Eventually when the player burns out or is of no more use to the gang, it’s time to pay his debt to the gang.  There are various ways to pay your debt and they are all bad.  

  • Enrichment Zone Warning

    The Diversity doesn’t see anything wrong with this kiddie gambling at all, and these arrests prove that “we are still a deeply racist nation”. 

  • Puggg

    Another thing.  Many of these suspects have felony rap sheets, yet they were still allowed to be involved in youth football?  What, no background check?  What good will punishing them be, when they’ll be involved with youth football again when they get out?

    Crime doesn’t pay, except when it does.

  • whiteyyyyy

    This impresses me, a 85 iq and they still ge

  • Up to my neck in CA

    “Six of the nine facing charges men who coached boys ages 5 to 15—are ex-convicts with a history of felony drug, assault and theft charges.”

    And we are to let felons vote and hire them because it be rayciss if we don’t?

  • KD_Did

    This is beyond ridiculous   As Pugg mentioned football at that age is barely football. Also how rampant do you think fixing these games are?  I mean the coaches are setting the spread and calling the plays. You think the refs are on the up and up?   How stupid do you have to be to place any bet on this? I guess THAT stupid.

    • Puggg

      That’s my point.  “Calling the plays.”  What plays?  It’s either hand off to the RB or short pass to an eligible receiver, then queue pandemonium until either the ball carrier’s knee is on the ground or gets pushed out of bounds or crosses the goal line.

      I now suspect that the gambling, book making and maybe fixing is among the older, almost high school aged boys in this league, who are expected to have more sophisticated playbooks and schemes.