The investigation by the U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force in Brooklyn, N.Y., into possible point-shaving on the 1978-79 Boston College basketball team has moved sports to the front page, catching many fans who have become accustomed to the gambling aura around sports off-guard.
At least three players are at the center of an investigation into the alleged shaving of points in five to seven games that season, reportedly for amounts ranging between $1,000 and $2,000. It's nothing new.
If nothing else, the present investigation has proved that inflation has not struck the basketball fixers. The amounts reportedly received by BC players are similar to those paid to players in the other scandals.
Thirty years ago, in 1951, a basketball scandal of a similar nature unraveled into one of the darkest episodes in sports. In 1961, another scandal shook the college basketball ranks.
The first scandal involved City College of New York, now a Division III school. The school was NCAA Division I champion and is the only team to win both the NCAA and NIT in the same year -- 1950.
CCNY might be a major college power today if not for the events of the next year. Four players from that team, including its star, Ed Roman, ending up pleading guilty to fixing charges.
That, however, was not the first hint of gamblers tainting college basketball. In 1945, a plot to have Brooklyn College lose to Akron failed.
In 1949, two players from George Washington University allegedly were paid to lose to Manhattan College. The Colonials won anyway.
The scandal of 1951 eventually encompassed 32 players from seven colleges who admitted to fixing 86 games.
"That's a long time ago," said Charles DeCicco, CCNY sports information director since 1967. "It's ancient history now. Among the 17-and 18-year-olds who go to school here, the general school population, maybe about half the students are aware of it."
Trying to stay away from the scandals that were coming out of New York in 1951, Bradley University of Peoria, Ill., the runner-up to CCNY in both postseason tournaments in 1950, refused to enter the 1951 turnaments. Bradley decided to stage its own tournament. Gamblers left no doubts about the outcomes at the Bradley tournament. On August 2, 1951, eight Bradley players confessed to being on the fixers' payroll. All eight players received suspended sentences.
Is it still mentioned at Bradley?
"No, not at all," said Joe Dalfonso, the sports information director for the past five years. "As a matter of fact, a few of the players from that team now work here in the administration. No one even talks about it. I'm sure most of the students don't even know. Two years ago, Gene Melchiorre (who in 1951 admitted his guilt in court), was inducted into the university's Hall of Fame."
The 1951 scandal did not end there. Before it was all over, five players from Toledo University admitted involvement in game-fixing but, after helping investigators, were not prosecuted.
Adolph Rupp of Kentucky, one of the greats of college coaching, thought his squads that included all-Americas Alex Groza and Ralph Beard from 1946-49 and won two national champioships during that time, were untouchable. "Gamblers couldn't get at my kids with 10-foot poles," he said during the ivestigation.
Before New York District Attorney Frank Hogan's men were through, Groza and Bread, in the pro ranks by then, admitted Rupp was right. The gamblers had used cold cash, not poles, to get to them. After conviction, the two players wre banned from the NBA for life.
Ten years, later, a scandal involved 47 players, all banned from the NBA for life because of the league's bylaws concerning association with known gamblers. Included in that group were Connie Hawkins and Roger Brown. Hawkins and Brown were never charged formally with fixing games, but both were named publicly by the New York DA's office. It was claimed they introduced other players to the gamblers.
Hawkins and Brown each maintained his innocence, later becoming stars in the American Basketball Association. Eight years later, Hawkins' name was cleared and he made it to the NBA, after most of his playing skills had eroded.
Among those indicted in 1961 were three players from St. Joseph's of Philadelphia (Frank Majewski, Jack Eagan and Vincent Kempton). All admitted their guilt, were expelled from school and banned from ever playing in the NBA.
Jim Lynam, a former American University coach who now coaches at St. Joseph's, was a sophomore guard on that team. Lynam said he never knew what was going on around him, or what he helped upset, for one game at least. In that game, Lynam came off the bench and helped pull out a one-point victory against Seton Hall; the trio later was accused of trying to dump that game. St. Joe's was favored by 10.
Jack Ramsay, coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, was in the midst of an 11-year tenure at St. Joe's when the scandal broke.
"You can't by suspect of every error that someone has made in a basketball game. There are many mistakes that are made in every game." said Ramsay recently. "I still maintain that it (fixing of games) is nearly impossible for anyone to detect.
"i don't know what you can do. You try to be careful with the players you recuit. Any time you have high pressure recruiting, you have some risks," said Ramsay, maintaining that players can expect too much because of offers made by college recruiters.
What's ahead for college basketball?
"I would not say it could not happen again. The biggest deterrent is the educational factor," said Lynam. Lynam's players, along with the rest of the major college players in Philadelphia, attend a preseason banquet each year in which representatives from the city district attorney's office and the NBA talk about several things, including potential gambling influence.
One coach who knows all about the effect the scandal can have on a person's life is floyd layne, now the head coach at CCNY. Thirty years ago, he, too, was greeted at his aprtment door by men from the district attorney's office. Layne walked to a flower pot, pulled out $2,800, and said, "I've been waiting for you." He pleaded guilty to the charges, but has since found his way back.