Cheating the Spread

Cheating the Spread: Gamblers, Point Shavers, and Game Fixers in College Football and Basketball

ALBERT J. FIGONE
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt2tt9bh
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  • Book Info
    Cheating the Spread
    Book Description:

    Delving into the history of gambling and corruption in intercollegiate sports, Cheating the Spread recounts all of the major gambling scandals in college football and basketball. Digging through court records, newspapers, government documents, and university archives and conducting private interviews, Albert J. Figone finds that game rigging has been pervasive and nationwide throughout most of the sports' history. The insidious practice has spread to implicate not only bookies and unscrupulous gamblers but also college administrators, athletic organizers, coaches, fellow students, and the athletes themselves._x000B__x000B_Naming the players, coaches, gamblers, and go-betweens involved, Figone discusses numerous college basketball and football games reported to have been fixed and describes the various methods used to gain unfair advantage, inside information, or undue profit. His survey of college football includes early years of gambling on games between established schools such as Yale, Princeton, and Harvard; Notre Dame's All-American halfback and skilled gambler George Gipp; the 1962 allegations of insider information between Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and former Georgia coach James Wallace "Wally" Butts; and many other recent incidents. Notable events in basketball include the 1951 scandal involving City College of New York and six other schools throughout the East Coast and the Midwest; the 1961 point-shaving incident that put a permanent end to the Dixie Classic tournament; the 1978 scheme in which underworld figures recruited and bribed several Boston College players to ensure a favorable point spread; the 1994-95 Northwestern scandal in which players bet against their own team; and other recent examples of compromised gameplay and gambling. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09445-3
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    Noted higher education scholar John R. Thelin, in his book Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics, has labeled intercollegiate athletics American higher education’s “peculiar institution.”¹ For the fans who follow college football and basketball, these sports offer a window into the colleges and universities that support, publicize, and play in Division I, the highest level of play offered by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The players and coaches in the major football and basketball programs at this level are similar to those in professional sports. The players’ size, skill level, and execution are close enough to...

  5. ONE CREATING A GAME FOR GAMBLERS: The Rise of College Basketball
    (pp. 1-11)

    After its invention by James Naismith in 1891 at the Springfield, Massachusetts, YMCA, basketball quickly became popular with young men and women, especially in urban areas that lacked space to play games such as baseball and football.¹ Sensing its appeal to young people, high schools and colleges quickly incorporated the sport into their physical education and competitive athletics programs. By the early 1900s, many colleges sponsored teams that competed against YMCA, club, and professional teams.² Because colleges during this period did not subsidize the sport at the same level as football, college basketball players often competed in professional leagues, where...

  6. TWO THE GOLDEN AGE OF GAMBLING: College Basketball in the Postwar Years
    (pp. 12-23)

    College basketball’s spectator appeal increased during World War II. Men over 6ʹ6ʺ were not drafted—the military lacked clothing and bedding for them, and they could not fit easily into the confines of ships and airplanes. “Big men” such as Don Otten of Bowling Green, George Mikan of DePaul, and Bob Kurland of Oklahoma A & M came to dominate a game already revolutionized by changes in rules and equipment and a faster, higher-scoring style of play. Many gamblers who favored the horses before the war switched to college basketball and football in the early 1940s. But the switch was not...

  7. THREE STINKING IT UP: The 1951 College Basketball Gambling Scandal
    (pp. 24-40)

    Sports historians, higher-education scholars, and sportswriters have described the 1951 college basketball gambling scandal as if it were an aberration or isolated incident. Their rationalizations in explaining the rigging of basketball games are characterized by healthy doses of righteous indignation about youthful indiscretions, attributing the acts of the players to the sinister influences of New York gamblers. In reality, the largest gambling scandal in the history of sports up to 1951 was a product of a disease that had been growing unchecked since the early 1900s. According to Stanley Cohen, author of a seminal book on the 1951 scandal, “All...

  8. FOUR DO NO EVIL, SEE NO EVIL, AND HEAR NO EVIL: Coaching and Presiding over College Basketball Scandals in the 1950s
    (pp. 41-60)

    The year 1951 was scandalous in college athletics: Widespread fixing had been revealed in college basketball, and academic fraud and illegal recruiting had been exposed in college football.¹ After the basketball scandal broke in January of that year, colleges, with the aid of many writers, were quick to label the players’ misdeeds “criminal” and to attribute them to players’ lack of moral values and flawed characters.² LIU basketball coach Clair Bee, who also served as LIU’s acting president, said that “the present mess is one of individuals and not the result of policy.”³ Bee had been a particular target of...

  9. FIVE “DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING FOR ME?”: Gambling Scandals in College Football from the Big Three to Bear Bryant
    (pp. 61-86)

    Gambling in college football has grown steadily from its beginnings in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Despite repeated abuses in recruiting, subsidizing, and academics, the sport escaped the game-fixing scandals that had plagued college basketball. Since the 1990s, however, college officials, the NCAA, and law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels have investigated and indicted an increasing number of college football players who have bet on sports, in some cases against their own teams.

    As early as 1893, college football’s founder, Walter Camp, was keenly aware of the possibility that players could fix games. Observing the...

  10. SIX COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S INCURABLE DISEASE: The 1961 Basketball Scandal
    (pp. 87-109)

    Corruption in college basketball became more rather than less pervasive after the 1951 scandal as many major colleges continued with their self-imposed mandate to provide professionalized entertainment for the American public. Critics of college sports viewed the fixing of basketball games as a by-product of the corruption that had become endemic in the sport. The 1951 scandal marked the point where the public began to accept betting scandals in college sports as no different from recruiting violations or subsidizing players. When media voices asked why colleges did not reform their athletic programs, college sports’ apologists placed much of the blame...

  11. SEVEN WINNING IN SMALLER WAYS: The 1978 Boston College Scandal
    (pp. 110-127)

    College basketball prospered after the 1961 scandal as the ignominy of fixing was buried in the public’s consciousness by the turmoil of the 1960s and the rise of the UCLA basketball dynasty under John Wooden. From 1963 to 1975, UCLA won ten of twelve NCAA titles, including seven consecutive titles and eighty-eight straight games. Coach Wooden’s middle America values, devout Christianity, and skillful coaching, combined with racially integrated teams and a winning formula of precision, teamwork, and stability, provided a counterpoint to the racial, countercultural, and political unrest of the times. Racism came to the forefront in college sports in...

  12. EIGHT STUDENT-ATHLETES AND CAMPUS BOOKIES: Basketball Scandals of the 1980s and 1990s
    (pp. 128-136)

    In 1975, University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant clearly enunciated his view of the role of athletes at a major university:

    I used to go along with the idea that football players on scholarship were “student-athletes,” which is what the NCAA calls them. Meaning a student first, an athlete second. We were kidding ourselves, trying to make it more palatable to the academicians. We don’t have to say that and we shouldn’t. At the level we play the boy is really an athlete first and a student second. He’s there as an emissary of the school, paid with...

  13. NINE A CONTINUING NIGHTMARE: Gambling and Fixing in College Football, 1990–2010
    (pp. 137-150)

    In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (also known as the Bradley Act, after its sponsor, Senator Bill Bradley), which made sports betting illegal in all states except Nevada, Oregon, and New Jersey.¹ The act sought to preserve the purity of athletic competition and to protect athletes by outlawing betting on high school, collegiate, and Olympic events. However, in the subsequent two decades, betting on sports has become a more serious problem than drug or alcohol abuse in educational institutions from elementary schools to college campuses. Included in this alarming trend are bookmaking operations run by...

  14. AFTERWORD: When the Cost of Winning at All Costs Is Too High
    (pp. 151-154)

    In a November 2010 ESPN: The Magazine poll of a sample of college basketball players, one in four stated that they would consider winning by less or losing by more than the point spread in the face of a 40-point blowout.¹ After nearly a century of gambling scandals, major college basketball and football remain rife with social and economic influences that guarantee that more game fixing scandals will occur.

    Gambling has become fully integrated into the U.S. entertainment industry. Betting on college and professional sports is just as accepted as voting for a contestant on a televised talent competition, buying...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 155-170)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-186)
  17. Index
    (pp. 187-196)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-201)