Henry Hill, a convicted felon facing indictment on drug charges, says he made gambling profits of between $75,000 and $100,000 after paying three Boston College basketball players approximately $10,000 each to shave points during the 1978-79 season.
"Not bad for 11 weeks work," Hill, 34, said in a copyrighted story in the Feb. 16 issue of Sports Illustrated.
For the first time since news of the point-shaving investigation broke last month in The Washington Post, it was alleged that team co-captain Jim Sweeney was an active and willing participant in the plan.
According to Hill, the scheme began with Rick Kuhn and Sweeney, but was expanded to include Ernie Cobb, the star of the team whose cooperation was needed for the point shaving to work.
"Sweeney was a businessman, like me," Hill said. "Birds of a feather. First he and Rick wanted $3,500 a game, but I wound up chewin' 'em down . . ."
Sweeney has told investigators he was approached with the point-shaving scheme but said he rejected the plan. He said he told no one at Boston College about it after being warned against talking. Previously, sources close to the investigation have said the point-shaving plan hinged mainly on Cobb and Kuhn, both of whom have denied participation.
Hill told Sports Illustrated he paid to have point adjustments in nine games, but that he won money on only six of them.
"We really had our ups and downs," Hill said. "But when the last pass had been thrown out of bounds, I had won six games and lot on three.
"But frankly, it wasn't as easy as I anticipated. Nothing ever is. It sounds simple. Heck, all we wanted was BC to win by less than the betting line when it was favored and to lose by more than the line when it was the underdog. So we'd always bet on the BC opponent.
Hill said he won his wagers on the Boston College games against Harvard and UCLA, but lost on the next two games, against Rhode Island and Holy Cross. Then he won three straight bets on games against Connecticut, Fordham and St. John's, lost a wager on the second BC-Holy Cross game but won his final wager on the second BC-Connecticut game, he said. The second Connecticut game was BC's season finale.
Kuhn and Sweeney was the initial participants in the plan, Hill said. Cobb was not brought in until the final five games, he said.
The plan was hatched, Hill said, at a meeting with Sweeney and Kuhn.
"We discussed the games we would do business on," Hill said. "Sweeney took out one of those little schedule cards, circled the games he thought they could fool with and gave the card to me. They kept saying they thought they had a good team, and they liked the idea of just shaving points, not blowing games.
"The thing that got me was they were familiar with betting. They knew about spreads. They were not dumb kids. They knew how to shave, because when I tried to explain to them, they said: 'Naw, we know about that . . .'
"Through all this, the players were gung-ho. One hundred percent. Now they're trying to con me, talk me, persuade me. I've been involved in quite a bit of betting, and I definitely know the score. But there they sat, drinking my wine in my hotel suite, and more or less trying to convince me that it's absolutely a 100 percent sure deal. They were the salesmen, not me."
The first bet he lost was the Rhode Island game, Hill said. After that Sweeney and Kuhn said they would have to include Cobb -- the team's leading scorer with a 21.3 average that year -- in order to make the point-shaving plans work, he said.
In that game, Boston College was a 15-point underdog, meaning that for the Rhode Island bettors to collect, Rhode Island would have to win by more than 15. Rhode Island won, 91-78.
"They said they were trying like hell, but they couldn't get the job done, because Cobb was the key man on the team," Hill said.
In another development, The New York Daily News reported yesterday that the FBI had questioned former Iowa College basketball coach Jim Valvano and his star player, Jeff Ruland, about Ruland's agent and allegations that points were shaved during the 1979-80 season. The investigation turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
Ruland, who left Iona following his junior year after admitting breaking NCAA rules by entering into an agreement with agent Paul Corvino of Mamaroneck, N.Y., said he was asked whether he knew if Corvino or Valvano had been betting on Iona games.
Corvino denied ever betting on any games. Valvano, now head basketball coach at North Carolina State, acknowledged meeting with an FBI agent last year at LaGuardia Airport in New York, but he declined to discuss details of the conversation. Of the allegations of gambling and point shaving, he said: There's no way I can believe that."