McQueary Gambling Allegations Put 19-Year-Old Game In New Light

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In 1995, Mike McQueary threw a touchdown late in garbage time of a Penn State blowout over Rutgers. Then-Rutgers coach Doug Graber and Joe Paterno got into a shouting match after the game because Graber thought Paterno was running up the score. The touchdown put the 20-point-favorite Nittany Lions up 59-34. None of this is interesting at all but for a tiny anecdote about McQueary's gambling habit while enrolled at Penn State, buried in ESPN's profile on the Penn State whistleblower.

According to several of his classmates and teammates, McQueary developed a compulsive gambling habit at Penn State. He bet and lost thousands of dollars on poker and sports wagering, mostly on pro football, though he also bet, several of his former teammates say, on Nittany Lions games. One former teammate specifically recalls that Big Red bet and lost on his own team in a November 1996 game against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. With McQueary serving as a backup on the sideline, favorite PSU won on a late field goal 32-29 but didn't cover the eight-point spread.

As his losses mounted, McQueary owed thousands of dollars to a bookie, a debt that was eventually erased by his father, several people say. A college friend recalls urging McQueary to slow down. "It got pretty bad," the friend says, "and it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive."

Any late score can seem like more than a coincidence when it takes money out of your pocket, and sports betting is full of conspiracy theorists, but this is at least interesting. A Penn State alum, who was there during McQueary's playing days, told that he recalled hearing rumors about McQueary's gambling, but never believed them. Then he read Van Natta, Jr.'s story and remembered the Rutgers game.

McQueary was the backup and came in in the last minute because it was a blowout. Instead of handing the ball off and letting the final 70 seconds or so run off, McQueary threw deep and burned Rutgers for a touchdown. Paterno looked pissed when the camera cut to him (which could mean anything) and the Rutgers side was even more pissed. After the game Paterno excused McQueary, while pointing out they were not running up the score on purpose. He chalked it up to McQueary being competitive.

Paterno explained that McQueary was only supposed to be looking for the tight end and hitting him for a first down. But the receiver was so wide open that any true competitor would want to try to hit him, rather than pull it back and thinking "I don't want to hurt coach Graber's feelings."


It sounds good, but that's how these things work. There's never a smoking gun—the absence of which you can use as proof that nothing is rigged or proof that everything is rigged really well—and always another explanation, but this is more than your typical crazy-play-allows-team-to-cover-late story. This is a guy with an alleged gambling problem—including betting on his own team—coming in for mop-up duty and immediately covering the spread with a 42-yard touchdown pass in a game that was over.

Ending to 1995 Penn State football game looks supsicious after McQueary gambling report [Betting Talk]