The FBI field office in Kansas City, Mo., confirmed yesterday it was starting an investigation into "possible irregularities" in Big Eight Conference basketball games in the 1980-1981 season.
Neither the FBI nor the Big Eight Conference would say how many games were involved, but media reports have said at least three league games from last season will be investigated: Kansas at Missouri Feb. 9, Oklahoma State at Colorado Feb. 14 and Nebraska at Missouri Feb. 21.
The FBI would not elaborate on what the possible irregularities are, but it has been reported that the FBI investigation would look at possible point-shaving by players and referees.An NCAA spokesman said today that the investigation began when FBI officials noticed abnormally large amounts of money being bet on the games.
"There was significant amounts (of money) -- and when I say significant I mean very significant -- all in one area of the country," said Dave Cawood, director of public relations for the NCAA.
Later, Cawood refused to say how much money was involved or in which area of the country it was bet.
Sources say the NCAA has been told for sure that only the Oklahoma State-Colorado and Nebraska-Missouri games will be investigated. The Kansas-Missouri game was reported by a Boulder, Colo., paper as under investigation. Big Eight spokesman Bill Hancock said the conference has not been told how many games are involved.
The FBI released this statement yesterday in Kansas City:
"Floyd I. Clarke, special agent in charge of the Kansas City office of the FBI, advised that the FBI has received information indicating possible irregularities in certain Big Eight Conference basketball games during this past season. An investigation is being conducted by the FBI to ascertain thevalidity of the information."
According to NCAA sources, the information did not come from a special task force composed of NCAA administrators that began working prior to disclosure of possible point-shaving at Boston College during the 1978-79 season. The NCAA task force is set up to establish contacts with gamblers and to monitor any significant changes in betting lines for abnormally large amounts bet.
In Kansas City, Hancock said that as of late yesterday the FBI had not contacted any of its players, coaches or game officials.
In a prepared statement, Big Eight Commissioner Carl James, formerly the athletic director at Maryland, said the conference will cooperate fully with the FBI.
Later, James said he contacted FBI officials in Kansas City yesterday.
"I called them and said, 'what's going on?'" James said. "Mr. Clarke said he was going to make a statement and I said fine, just let us know if we can assist."
Missouri Athletic Director Dave Hart said, "I don't know. I think they may be fishing for bites they may not get. They have every right to look, and if they have any suspicion they should look."