"It might take a point-shaving scandal to bring us back to reality." -- Tex Winter, basketball coach, Long Beach State
In college athletics these days, the initials FBI and NCAA seem almost to be becoming synonymous. In certain cases, you can't tell the players -- or their coaches -- without a police blotter.
Periodically in the last three decades, college football and basketball have shown their seamy, dark side, the side opposite to the glitter and spontaneity that turn games into great spectacles.
Now, recruiting and academic abuses to get the best players and keep them eligible are being judicially documented and publicized. Certainly the past college year was one of the most tumultuous in college athletic history.
Two coaches have been indicted for allegedly counterfeiting transcripts. Credits have been obtained for athletes via extensions courses the athletes never attended, and, in some cases, never knew they were enrolled in. The NCAA is investigating as many as 15 percent of its Division I schools. The FBI and Postal Inspection Service are in hot pursuit with more indictments predicted. At least three head coaches have been fired. Games have been forfeited.
"There's so much cheating going on noe," one college basketball coach said, "that it is no longer awesome.It's beyond awesome."
Said one NCAA investigator, only half in jest: "If this pace keeps up, we'll have trouble finding enough teams to fill out the football television package next season."
Consider what's happened since last September alone:
A basketball coach, Norm Ellenberger of the University of New Mexico, was indicted on mail fraud charges growing out of a gambling investigation. The indictment, which also named one of Ellengerger's former assistants, alleged that athletes were given counterfeit academic transcripts to keep them eligible.
Two head football coaches, Frank Kush of Arizona State and Tony Mason of Arizona,have resigned under fire, in the wake of academic abuses and alleged physical abuse of players at Arizona State and purported misuse of recruiting funds at Arizona.
Eight major universities -- New Mexico, UCLA, Southern Cal., San Jose State, Arizona State, Utah, Oregon and Oregon State -- have been investigated by FBI, NCAA or conference probes on charges that they accepted credit for extension or correspondence courses for some of their athletes although they did no work, did not attend or, in some cases, even know they were enrolled.
Although the fraudulent credit scandal is six months old, none of the investigatory agencies can pinpoint how widespread the abuses are. "Nobody knows how broad or deep it is," said a man close to the investigation.
A top FBI official said more schools will be implicated, including some east of the Mississippi, and that more indictments are expected.
About 30-35 NCAA Division I schools -- about 15 percent of the total -- are being investigated by the NCAA Enforcement Division, according to the NCAA director of enforcement. And that is why Texas Winter's grim statement might not be an oversimplification. In fact, history tells us that college point-shaving scandals have little effect on the skulduggery, illegal payments and outright cheating as teams seek to produce the best teams in the multimillion-dollar business of intercollegiate athletics.
A major point-shaving scandal, in 1951, centered around the University of Kentucky basketball team. A year later, the NCAA instituted its current enforcement procedures. The following numbers, produced by the NCAA for a 1978 House subcommittee on oversight and investigations, are somewhat staggering:
Of the 60 schools in what the NCAA calls the seven most prominent football conferences, 42 have received public disciplinary action -- 72 percent. Through 1977, those 42 institutions had received 78 separate disciplinary actions.
Only two schools which have won NCAA basketball championships since 1952 -- Chicago Loyola in 1963 and Marquette in 1977 -- have not been subject to public disciplinary action at one time or another because of their basketball programs. Since the tournament's inception in 1939, 24 different schools have won the title. Of those 24 schools, 17 have been subject to public disciplinary action.Kentucky, a five-time champion, has been penalized three times, three-times winner Indiana twice.
North Carolina State won the NCAA basketball championship in 1974, the year after it served a one-year probation for violations in recruiting David Thompson, the star of that team.
Even a school like Iona, a relatively new Eastern power sold to recruits as the alternative to big-time pressure, has been caught up in the scandal, with recent charges that its players have been subsidized illegally for at least the past two years.
Recently, Darryl Rogers, the new coach at Arizona State, put things in perspective when he said: "They'll fire you for losing before they'll fire you for cheating."
The fact is, said a number of longtime major-college basketball coaches interviewed recently, that the revelations the past football and basketball seasons are nothing new.
Marv Harshman, the University of Washington coach and the president of the National Associaton of Basketball Coaches, said he remembers some colleges advertising credits for cash 20 years ago.
Harshman previously coached at Washington State which, he said, had an assistant football coach whose job was keeping athletes eligible. "It was a common practice," he said.
"It's been going on at least 30 years," said Winter, who has coached that long. "You're dealing with a mentality that makes it necessary if you want to keep an athlete eligible.
"The registrar . . . has to approve credits. Members of the faculty become emtionally involved and support the team. They pass them, accept credits, admit them."
At Southern California, one of the premier athletic schools in the country, the athletic department's academic adviser resigned last month after it was alleged 34 athletes, mostly football players, were enrolled in speech courses they did not have to attend.
The Pacific-10 Conference is investigating academic situations at USC, UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon. Earlier, Arizona State had to forfeit football victories because eight players allegedly had phony transcripts or credits.
The conference is not investigating Arizona, Commissioner Wiles Hallock said, because that school is "not involved in the transcript thing at all" and its administration called in the NCAA when newspapers in the state began making the allegations that led to Mason's resignation.
Hallock said "eight or nine" football players were involved in the Oregon investigation, three in the Oregon State case and three in the UCLA case, although those three played football in 1977 or 1978 and were not on the Bruin roster last season.
Billy Mullins, a USC track star, is being investigated by the Pac-10 as to whether or not he actually took credits at four different junior colleges in the Los Angeles area, Hallock said. Approximately 30 players on last season's Rose Bowl champions reportedly received credits for taking at least one speech course in which they did no work.
However, Hallock said, it is unlikely that the Trojans will have to forfeit any victories.
"Unless we or the NCAA can prove it was a long-standing practice and this was not the first year it happened, there is no question of eligibility under our system," Hallock said. "They would still have a chance this academic year to get eligible (for next season)."
Universities have tried to sweep this side of their system under the rug. For the most part, they have succeeded. The new major scandal broke as a result of a wiretap by the Albuquerque police on the phone of then-assistant coach Manny Goldstein, as part of an investigation of alleged gambling.
Of the three basketball coaches involved in the case at New Mexico, Goldstein was the only one not indicted. It has been reported that he is cooperating with NCAA and federal nvestigators.
Prior to coaching at New Mexico, Goldstein was an assistant at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. In 1973, that school was placed on four-year probation in all sports and its basketball program was disbanded for two years for what the NCAA has called "numerous willful violations of rules covering recruiting, financial aid and the 1.6 rule." At the time, it was considered the most severe penalty ever meted out by the NCAA for abuses.
The fact is that coaches whose schools have been placed on probation do get hired elsewhere. Some changed jobs just before the school got hit with probation.
"One of the reasons he (such a coach) is gone is that the posse is not far behind," said David Berst, the NCAA director of enforcement.
"There are numerous examples of that."
Coaches who lose usually don't get hired elsewhere. A recent survey showed a high turnover rate in Division I basketball. Only 10 percent of the coaches at Division I basketball schools in 1970 are at those same schools today. Among well-known basketball powers, Duke has had five coaches in a decade, UCLA four.
A Washington Post survey shows that 49 schools have had at least three basketball coaches in the last decade, among 110 major schools from the 11 most powerful basketball conferences and 15 other universities.
The best coaches are well paid but lack security. Bob Knight, the Indiana coach who says he would be the first person to turn in his school if he discovered cheating, reportedly makes $200,000-$300,000 annually when all sources of revenue are counted.
Coaches say there are 45-50 high-paying jobs in the profession. Other coaches work the same hours, try to recruit just as hard (with less resources) and probably make $20,000-$35,000, with few side benefits.
How do colleges justify the big spending to hire their coaches? The amount of free publicity their teams generate and the big payoffs from bowl games in football and the NCAA tournament in basketball make these small investments for picking the right man.
A first-round loser in the NCAA tournament made $80,000 last season; a team in the regionals cleared $200,000 and the four teams that reached the national semifinals were each rewarded with $320,000. The amount will increase next year because the NCAA contract with the National Broadcasting Co. goes up $1.5 million.
The major bowl games pay $1 million to each participant. The football powers make more than $150,000 for each appearance on the NCAA-ABC package.
Under the present system, there is little likelihood the abuses will be curtailed. Where there is big money, there always will be someone trying to beat the system.
The NCAA system encourages shortcuts.
Coaches are hired to win and fill arenas and stadiums. For the most part, the men who hire them -- athletic directors and university presidents -- keep their jobs if they make bad choices. The coach doesn't. There is tremendous pressure on coaches to win.
Athletes are grossly underpaid. The NCAA even took away their $15 per month laundry money a few years ago. Under-the-table cash is available from many sources -- alumni, fans, booster clubs and occasionally even athletic department slush funds.
The enforcement arm of the NCAA is hampered because investigators -- and there are only eight -- lack subpoena powers.
A top FBI official has suggested that the NCAA ask local police, who have these powers to help. The Board of the National Association of Basketball Coaches believes that the media can smoke out more cheaters than the NCAA.
And new NCAA rules reducing total scholarships have spread the talent around so much that in basketball, as Harshman put it, every team "has a chance to play with everyone else in America."
Earlier, with more scholarships, schools were able to stockpile players. For instance, Swen Nater, who led the National Basketball Association in rebounding this season, never was the starting center at UCLA. He played behind Bill Walton.
Harshman, for one, is happy to see the FBI and other federal agencies involved.
"People and the media are interested now. Let's lay the blame where it belongs." he said. "I'm sure there's blame at every level . . . There must be more responsibility by universities and administrators right up to the president."
Winter calls the problem "The Ivory Tower Viewpoint of Academia." He says the administrators -- and the NCAA is made up of college administrators -- have "an unrealistic understanding, an insensitive posture toward what's going on with young athletes.
"The rules and regulations that govern intercollegiate athletes are made by people in ivory towers who haven't been on the waterfront or battle line. They haven't seen things in the proper perspective or tried to. It (the system) is not functional. They create problems for themselves, for coaches, for everybody."
According to the NCAA's Berst, some university predsidents do not cooperate with the NCAA investigators. Instead of trying to flush out the corruption, "they generally support denials of staff members."
A case documented by a special task force of the House subcommittee on oversights and investigations involved Clemson University, which received three years probation in both football and basketball in 1975 for violations that included cash, other fringe benefits, free loans, free transportation, illegal tryouts, excessive entertainment and lack of institutional control.
The minority report charged that Clemson "went about defending itself rather than engaging in a good-faith effort to uncover the real facts."
According to the minority report, someone at Clemson "bugged" the office where the NCAA investigator was conducting on-campus interviews with an electronic device. This fact was revealed to the special task force by a university official who referred to it as "illegal as hell."
The report said, "Clemson also submitted false and misleading affidavits as well as an apparently forged affidavit to the Committee on Infractions in its defense. The apparently forged affidavit in question was a total fabrilation.
"Clemson also came into possession of incriminating evidence during the course of its investigation which it failed to turn over or to reveal to the Committee on Infractions and subsequently destroyed it. Knowing full well of this incriminating evidence, Clemson still denied the allegation and submitted affidavits from individuals denying the allegations."
Other universities seriously try to clean up their programs. A case in point is Memphis State University, which is serving the first year of a two-year probation in both football and basketball for improper bank loans and free transportation.
"He went out and sought information," Berst said about Billy Jones, then the Memphis State president who last fall took an endowed teaching position in the college of business at Wichita State University.
"The fault was mine as much as anybody else's," said Jones, who played football at Vanderbilt and coached football in high schools and colleges for 10 years.
Jones believes that Memphis State's problems would not have arisen had he been more forceful in telling supporters what was and was not allowed.
"The biggest problem is communication. In all honesty, we neglected our support groups, sometimes very badly," Jones said. "We didn't inform them of what is and what isn't acceptable. With adequate communications, the supporter sometimes feels he can go further than he should.
"In a way, it's not his fault. It's the fault of us, of me, to make sure information gets to the right people. I have no doubt in my mind . . . if we'd done our job as well as we should have, then the violations never would have occurred."
Jones said administrators must stay on top of the situation, saying what he had done was "not enough."
"When there's no fear your program has anything wrong with it, one can be lulled into a spirit of complacency because everything seems all right. It's only . . . after you go through this once, you are determined it's never going to happen again. We were determined to find out if there were any irregularities and, if there were, to correct them."
An NCAA source who wished to remain anonymous said the massive publicity and public interest will move some schools toward "dealing with the problem and not being defense-oriented, sticking it to the coach and trying to clean up your program."
Currently, 10 universities, including eight in Division I, are on probation for violating NCAA rules.
Those eight, according to NCAA spokesman Dave Cawood, are East Carolina (basketball), San Francisco (basketball), Cincinnati (basketball), Oral Roberts (basketball), Auburn (football and basketball), Memphis State (football) and Alaska-Anchorage (basketball).
And why do they cheat? The Alaska-Anchorage people had the most original answer. The school's defense: The administration was new and did not know the school belonged to the NCAA.