Few college basketball coaches gathering here for their annual convention were talking Xs and Os today. Instead, the topics were gambling and drugs and the way they may be intertwined in the wake of allegations of point shaving at Tulane University.
"The drugs bring on a new dimension to this thing," said Houston's Guy Lewis, reacting to charges made this week in New Orleans that three Tulane University players fixed games by shaving points and were paid, at least in part, in drugs.
"Guys on drugs are liable to do anything," Lewis said. "I'm not saying it's true or not. But you take a guy on drugs, and he's hooked on something, you don't know what he might do. This is a new dimension for all coaches, I would suspect."
Two Tulane players not charged in the case testified before a grand jury today in New Orleans, and afterward another student was arrested, according to news reports. Mark Olensky, 21, who is not a member of the team, surrendered to District Attorney Harry Connick and was booked on two counts of bribery of sports participants, Connick's office said. He was the fifth student arrested in the case.
Olensky, who also was booked on charges of conspiracy to bribe and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, was jailed pending a bond hearing. Connick said the investigation by the Orleans Parish grand jury would continue next week and no indictments were reported.
The only testimony today came from two players who reportedly have immunity from prosecution. Clyde Eads, 22, a starting senior from Tampa, Fla., one of the two players reportedly granted immunity, was in the grand jury room more than two hours. Jon Johnson, 22, a starting senior from Columbus, Ga., appeared before the grand jury after Eads.
John Williams, 23, a 6-foot-10 all-conference center, was arrested Tuesday night at his home and later denied any wrongdoing. On Wednesday, sophomore swing man David Dominique of New Iberia, La., and senior guard Bobby Thompson of New Orleans surrendered to officers.
Also arrested Tuesday was Gary Kranz, 21, of New Rochelle, N.Y., a Tulane student booked on cocaine dealing as well as gambling law violations. He was released on $10,000 surety bond. The three players were freed without bail.
Connick said the investigation still centers on two Metro Conference games, Feb. 20 with Memphis State and Feb. 2 with Southern Mississippi in the Tulane arena. Asked if the scandal could expand beyond Tulane, Connick said it was a possibility, noting that it involves bookmakers and gamblers.
Connick said the NCAA had been alerted and was conducting its own investigation. "As a byproduct of this investigation we have reason to believe there may be some violations of NCAA regulations," said Connick, who has contacted Tulane President Eamon Kelly about the matter.
In Lexington, a number of prominent coaches -- including Nevada-Las Vegas' Jerry Tarkanian, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Iowa's George Raveling -- said basically the same thing: "It's scary."
According to reports, the drugs in the Tulane case were supplied by a fellow student. A number of coaches today talked about steps they take, such as limiting telephone calls on the road, to cut down on gamblers' access to their players.
"What you can't control as a coach is what goes on on your own campus," said Vanderbilt's C.M. Newton, a benchwarmer on the 1951 Kentucky team, some members of which were involved in a point-shaving scandal.
The board of directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches issued the following statement today:
"The NABC is extremely concerned with three serious problems in our society: 1) ethical conduct; 2) drug abuse; 3) gambling . . . We strongly support programs designed to address the problems in basketball, especially related to recruiting, drug education/testing and sports bribery. It is critical to provide assistance for our student-athletes as well as protect the integrity of basketball."
The coaches continued their call to eliminate betting lines from being published in newspapers. They say they expose young people to the odds and give some legitimacy to betting on games.
Yet, several coaches interviewed today said they either are not adequately prepared to deal with drug and gambling problems among their players or don't want to face the reality of it.
"I'm of the opinion none of my players fool around with drugs, none of them," said Tarkanian. "Yet my son (former player Danny, 23) told me the other day about some kid supposedly on marijuana and he told me, 'Dad, you'd be surprised how many players are.'
"He was not only talking about our team but college athletics in general. The coach, we're always sitting on top thinking nobody does anything like that. It's kind of scary."
Frank McGuire, the former coach at St. John's and North Carolina, said, "This is foreign to me. If I was a young coach today, I'd definitely want to take courses to learn all about drugs. I never knew anything about drugs and couldn't detect them."
Former coaches such as McGuire expanded on a statement by Lewis that he brings in an FBI agent to discuss gambling with his team once before the season starts, and that he has never gambled in his life and doesn't want to know about point spreads.
"You've got to do it continually," McGuire said about reminding his players about sports bribery. "This Tulane thing upsets me to my stomach . . . I hope it's an isolated case."