A New Jersey law enforcement official said yesterday North Carolina State's 1987-88 basketball season is the focus of an unspecified criminal investigation. The official would not confirm point shaving is involved, but in a national news broadcast last night, former Wolfpack forward Charles Shackleford was accused of conspiring with three teammates to fix four games during the 1987-88 season.
ABC News, citing "informed sources" and quoting one unidentified player, reported that Shackleford and unnamed teammates agreed to fix the final game of that season against Wake Forest and as many as three others in exchange for payments from housing contractor Robert D. Kramer III of Denville, N.J.
Shackleford, now with the New Jersey Nets, last week admitted that as a player at N.C. State he accepted cash payments amounting to $65,000 from two men -- an unnamed agent, and Kramer, who has characterized himself as an N.C. State supporter and friend of Shackleford's.
Denville Police Chief Howard Shaw said in a telephone interview that his department has been inquiring into Kramer's association with Shackleford since November. Kramer was arrested on a misdemeanor drug possession charge in September, which Shaw said led his department to investigate other alleged "criminal activities" by Kramer. Shaw said his department contacted North Carolina law enforcement officials and the departments have been working in concert.
In a separate report yesterday by the Greensboro News and Record, unnamed sources said the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was inquiring into allegations of point shaving in North Carolina State's game against Tampa in 1986. The Wolfpack, then 7-1 andranked No. 12, lost to the NCAA Division II school, 67-62.
No law enforcement official in New Jersey or North Carolina would affirm yesterday that point shaving is the focus of their inquiries. The aim of point shaving is to affect a game's final score, causing a team to win by fewer points than the betting line predicted.
Shaw stressed that North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano was not implicated in his department's investigation. Valvano and the Wolfpack lost an ACC game last night at Maryland, after which he said: "Obviously, I didn't know of it. If I had known of it, it would have been reported and the players would have been gonzo."
He said it never occurred to him that his players may have been trying to fix the outcome of a game. "I've been on the bench 23 years, that thought doesn't enter your mind," he said. "I've seen too many game swings, and players who play well one night and not very well the next night."
N.C. State is on two-year NCAA probation after disclosures about academic irregularities and the illegal sale by players of athletic shoes and game tickets. The school underwent in-house and NCAA investigations last year after the publication of "Personal Fouls," a book alleging a pattern of corruption in the program. Valvano was forced to give up his position as athletic director.
Accepting money from an agent or supporter as Shackleford did is an NCAA violation, but is not illegal.
Kramer has denied gambling on college games and maintained he only gave Shackleford money as a loan. Shackleford's current agent, Salvatore DiFazio of Somerville, N.J., yesterday would not comment on any investigations except to say that Shackleford repaid the unnamed agent, who gave him $40,000, and Kramer when he signed his professional contract.
ABC reported the four N.C. State players shaved points in the March 6, 1988, game against Wake Forest. The Wolfpack was favored to win by 15 points, and won by 86-82. The player Shackleford was guarding, Ralph Kitley, scored a career-high 22 points. He averaged seven that season.
A player quoted on camera by ABC was not identified and wore an overcoat and a cap with his face blacked out.
"You're supposed to win by six and you're winning by eight with 18 seconds on the clock, you're going to, you're going to throw the ball away and make sure that they can get a layup out of it to bring it within six," the player said. "Ah, you do whatever is necessary at that particular moment. . . .
"It was basically just for the money, and because, you know, you didn't have money sometimes to eat with. . . . "
ABC called Kramer the "mastermind" of the conspiracy. The network said he paid the players as much as $1,000 each per game and that Shackleford distributed the money.
Yesterday the Charlotte Observer quoted Kramer as saying reports of his involvement in any alleged point shaving were "ludicrous." But according to ABC, a former business associate of Kramer, Angelo Carvana, said Kramer approached him just hours before the Wake Forest game.
"He told me if I would bet on the game that I could make myself some money because it had been taken care of," Carvana said.
North Carolina SBI chief investigator William Dowdy said his agency would look into the point-shaving allegations. "Our inquiry deals with payments made to a player of North Carolina State," he said. "We're trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the payments and if there were any criminal violations."
But Dowdy said, "There was no information to lead me to believe there was any point shaving."
Valvano, who missed the Tampa game with the flu, told the Associated Press he never suspected anyone of trying to throw the game. "If I had, I would have reported it," he said. "But I never reported it because I never had a reason to."
Former players Vinny del Negro, now of the Sacramento Kings, and Bennie Bolton of Washington also said yesterday they knew of no attempts by the '87-88 team to shave points.
"We have no comment on that investigation, assuming there is one," DiFazio said. "I'm not going to comment on supposition and rumor. There is nothing worthy of comment at this point. I haven't seen anything hard and fast."
Kramer, reached at his contracting firm in East Orange, N.J., referred all questions to his attorney, Gerard Hanlon, who did not return phone calls. In an earlier interview with the Charlotte Observer, Kramer maintained he loaned Shackleford $20,000 out of friendship in an attempt to relieve the pressure placed on Shackleford by an agent who had given the player $40,000. Kramer said the agent was trying to convince Shackleford to turn pro after his junior year so the agent could get his money back. Shackleford, 23, left N.C. State after his junior season in 1988.
According to the News and Record, the agent is Larry Gillman of Ridgefield, Conn., who was East Carolina's basketball coach from 1975-79. Shaw of the Denville police confirmed Gillman's name had surfaced in his investigation. Gillman could not be reached for comment.
Also yesterday, representatives from N.C. State, NCAA and North Carolina SBI met with DiFazio at his office. DiFazio, in a phone interview before the meetings, said the purpose of the meeting was to show those officials proof that Shackleford had reimbursed Kramer and the agent, and to assure the NCAA that school officials had no knowledge that Shackleford was being paid.