Worst College Basketball Scandals
by Joe Paciella - 11/15/2007
There is no good without evil. For every story of Jimmy V and his 1983 Wolfpack, or those Villanova Wildcats, who played a nearly perfect game to shock heavily favored Georgetown, there's one of Boston College and point shaving or Baylor and Dave Bliss. Here's a look at the top five worst college basketball scandals of all time…
5. University of Minnesota
Clem Haskins, then head coach of the Golden Gophers, orchestrated a massive wave of fraud, including paying a basketball office manager to write papers for players, giving players cash, ignoring sexual harassment concerns involving some players, and mail fraud concerning a recruit's transcript. His staff also tried to convince professors to give players better grades in classes than they had received themselves. What came from this was a university and NCAA investigation. The university had several members of their athletic office resign, including Athletic Director Mark Dienhart. The NCAA stripped many of the accolades and titles from 1993 to 1999. The university also retrieved over half of the buyout from Haskins after he had left. In addition, the university returned about $350,000 from their NCAA appearances during this time, which they did on their own accord.
4. Boston College
Mobsters Henry Hill, Paul Mazzei and Jimmy Burke were involved with bribing Boston College player Rick Kuhn during the 1978-79 season. In all, six games were fixed and the players involved were paid $2,500 per game. The mobsters placed their bets through various bookmakers. The crime only came out when Hill was arrested and charged with six drug related conspiracy charges. He was offered immunity for past crimes for information about the Lufthansa Heist, so police could go after other mobsters. He ended up giving information on the BC scheme. His information, along with Boston College player Jim Sweeny's testimony against the defendants is what got Kuhn and others.
3. City College of New York
New York City was the center of the college basketball universe during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Thirty-two players from CCNY, Long Island University, New York University and four other schools including Kentucky, Bradley, Toledo and Manhattan were bribed by bookmakers and felons to keep games close. Some players were arrested at Penn Station after a student from another school brought attention to the situation and an investigation was launched. These arrests were a few of the first to break the story on game fixing at these schools. All together, 86 games were fixed over a span from 1947 to 1950.
2. University of Michigan
Longtime booster Ed Martin just about single handedly brought down the Wolverine men's basketball program with his role in a money-laundering scheme that spanned two decades. Martin, who was a former electrician of Ford Motor Company, ran an illegal gambling business at Ford plants in the Detroit area. Martin gave money and benefits to Michigan players both in college and while they were in high school, with the intent that the players would pay the money back once they turned professional. Four of the Wolverine's top players were involved in the scandal, which included Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor, Louis Bullock, and the star of the Fab Five, Chris Webber. All told, there was approximately $616,000 given to the four star players.
The repercussions were dire for the program. Over 100 games were forfeited, including the 1997 NIT Championship and the '1998 Big Ten Tournament Championship. The university also returned almost one half million dollars from their six NCAA postseason appearances from 1992 to 1999, the program was placed on probation for two years and they were not able to participate in postseason play in the 2002-03 season. The players involved were also deleted from the school's athletic records.
1. Baylor University
In what could be considered the worst college basketball scandal of all time, Baylor University's head coach Dave Bliss was handed a 10-year "show-cause" order from the NCAA in June of 2005. What this means is that until 2015, Bliss cannot be hired by an NCAA member school without that school showing cause to the NCAA as to why it shouldn't be penalized itself. The road to this sanction goes something like this:
In the summer of 2003, Baylor player Patrick Dennehy was shot and killed by teammate Carlton Dotson. This murder (only confessed to by Dotson in June of 2005) was just the beginning of what splintered the basketball program at Baylor. After the murder, some began to question how Dennehy could have remained on the team without an athletic scholarship for the 2002-03 academic year. University President Robert Sloan jumped quickly into action and selected a panel to investigate any wrongdoing by the program. As they went to work, more people came forward and revealed what they knew about the program.
It came out that Coach Bliss and his staff ignored marijuana and alcohol use that was prevalent among some of the players. The staff also did not report any positive drug tests to keep those players on the team.
An "illegal tryout" for one of the recruits was held, with Coach Bliss in attendance. This involved the recruit playing a pickup game during a visit (an NCAA rules violation).
Bliss had paid for the remainder of Dennehy's tuition, which financial aid did not cover. He also did this for another player, Corey Herring. Worst of all, days before the tuition story went public, Bliss tried to instruct his staff and team to tell all investigators that Dennehy obtained the money for his tuition by dealing drugs. These conversations were taped by an assistant coach after he was threatened with being fired if he did not go along with the story.
The NCAA found that the infractions that occurred on Dave Bliss's watch were as serious as those at SMU, whose football program received the "death penalty" two decades earlier. Bliss's penalty reflects those sentiments.