College football fans of a certain age will remember the cautionary tale of one-time superstar Art Schlichter. Much celebrated as a quarterback at Ohio State, where he started from 1978-81 and was a perennial Heisman Trophy candidate, Schlichter’s gambling addiction cut his professional career short and led to a life of severe personal and legal troubles.
Once a nationally-known figure and sports hero in his native state of Ohio, Schlichter’s retreat from the limelight has been so severe his release from an Ohio prison last month garnered scant notice. After serving nine years in a Colorado federal prison for a variety of offenses, Schlichter spent another eight months in the Trumbull Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg before his release on June 14.
Today the 61-year-old Schlichter is on Adult Parole Authority for five more years.
Schlichter imprisoned for multiple offenses related to ticket-buying scheme
In 2011, Schlichter pleaded guilty to state and federal charges stemming from his having conducted a fraudulent scheme involving the buying and selling of football tickets, including to Ohio State games. The scheme resulted in Schlichter conning millions of dollars from dozens of victims, much of which was used to support Schlichter’s gambling addiction.
The state charges involved theft and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. Federal charges included wire fraud, bank fraud, and filing a false tax return. The state charges resulted in a 10-plus year sentence and the federal charges nearly 11 years. While on house arrest awaiting sentencing, Schlichter tested positive for cocaine use, a fact that did not help his situation.
Schlichter served both sentences concurrently, spending the bulk of the time in the Federal Correction Institute in Florence, Colorado before transferring to Ohio to serve the final eight months.
His latest offenses and imprisonment mark the most recent chapter of a sad and lengthy narrative that includes a litany of felonies and millions of dollars lost gambling.
Promising career as quarterback derailed by gambling addiction
According to a profile of Schlichter by The Indianapolis Star last August, Schlichter has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
The story also notes how at the time Schlichter was still betting on games even while in prison. He had women placing bets for him on the outside and gambled with fellow inmates on the inside. According to a prosecutor, he even attempted another ticket-buying scheme involving Super Bowl tickets and targeting an inmate’s family.
“He is past the point of rehabilitation,” argued the prosecutor then.
Schlichter’s gambling began in high school and continued through college. However, his public fall from grace only came after he joined the Baltimore Colts who drafted him in 1982. (The Colts moved to Indianapolis two years later.) After losing hundreds of thousands and falling into extreme debt with various bookies, Schlichter became the first player banned from the NFL for gambling in 20 years.
Though briefly reinstated by the league, his gambling continued. After three non-productive seasons with the Colts, Schlichter was out of the NFL. More gambling, more debts, and bankruptcy followed.
Schlichter would enjoy momentary success in the Arena Football League in the early 1990s. There he won an MVP and a championship for the Detroit Drive. But his gambling addiction never went away, leading to more crimes and significant financial and legal troubles.
Between 1995 and 2006, Schlichter served sentences adding up to over 10 years. His offenses included illegal gambling, passing bad checks, theft, and fraud.
Out of prison in the late 2000s, Schlichter attempted to rehabilitate himself. He founded a non-profit organization to help others with compulsive gambling. He also lobbied against Ohio casinos when they appeared as a ballot referendum in 2009. However the gambling and illegal schemes resurfaced, culminating in his most recent crimes and incarceration.
Schlichter’s story illustrates the perils of problem gambling
Schlichter will be watched closely during his parole period, and one can only hope he manages not to harm himself or others. Meanwhile, his story remains an object lesson illustrating the many perils associated with problem gambling.
Ohio offers numerous ways to educate the public about responsible gambling and provide help and support for problem gambling. Click here for a full rundown of information and resources.