Additionally, Hart defended his staff, specifically Associate Athletic Director Bob Minnix, in its handling of the inquiry in his address to the school's athletic board Wednesday afternoon.
Hart reiterated that university personnel pursued the gambling rumor immediately and former FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte and the NCAA were contacted about the matter. Hart and his staff have been under fire for being too lax in their investigation in an attempt to avoid scrutiny of their program.
The heat has centered on Minnix, who spent 20 years working for the NCAA as an investigator before he was hired by FSU in 1995 as the school's associate director of athletics for compliance and legal affairs. Minnix has said he stands behind his investigation, saying he asked the questions that needed to be asked.
"(This is) a man who has testified before Congress to a gambling committee. They handpicked him to come and testify. He chaired the ethics and sportsmanship committee. This is a guy who is about as ethical as anybody as I have ever been around in my life," Hart said following the board meeting.
"Again, we don't anticipate having any problem (from the NCAA)."
Hart provided the board with the athletic staff's chronological order of some of the events also contained in a 800-plus-page report conducted by a task force of investigators from the FSU Police Department, the Tallahassee Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
McPherson, of course, was arrested on a misdemeanor gambling charge last month. The 19-year-old also faces four felony charges related to the theft of the check from an auto customizing shop, as well as charges that he wrote a string of other bad checks. The stolen check episode last November touched off a broader gambling investigation by a multi-agency law enforcement task force.
That investigation's interviews showed that FSU athletic department officials heard allegations as early as last May or June that McPherson often gambled and owed thousands of dollars to a local bookie.
Hart told the board his department was first alerted to any rumor relating to gambling when Andy Urbanic, associate director of athletics for football operations and special projects, looked into the alleged misuse of a credit card by a student-athlete (McPherson). Hart told the media following the board meeting that initial rumor occurred in June.
Hart went on to tell the board that an allegation was also made about possible gambling by McPherson to Urbanic, who then reported it to Minnix. Hart said all parties (interviewed) "emphatically denied any involvement in gambling." Hart said his department didn't hear "anything else about gambling until the stolen check incident occurred."
During their interviews with Hart and Minnix, task force investigators lashed out at them for their failure to take notes during early interviews of McPherson and others. The investigators questioned whether Hart and Minnix were deliberately attempting to avoid outside scrutiny of their program.
Hart defended the procedure, saying, "...right or wrong, a practice for the simple reason that if we take notes every time we question someone on a rumor and those notes then become public in nature, then we potentially are subjecting the student-athletes to information that is in the form of a rumor becoming very public in its scrutiny."
Following the board meeting, Hart said his department is looking into ways of strengthening its line of communication.
"I can't say specifically but I feel certain we'll strengthen what we do," he said. "I think that's usually a byproduct of an assessment after something like this occurs, so this is not unusual in nature. We will find a way to strengthen it, and do some things better, particularly from a communications type of standpoint."
In regards to on-campus gambling nationally, Hart told a board member during a question-and-answer period, "it's out there, it's real, it's everywhere."
Bill Saum, the NCAA's director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities, has said before that FSU officials kept the NCAA abreast of the gambling accusations against McPherson.