SUPER BOWL SCALPING
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles last Thursday handed down a three-count, seven-page indictment against Dominic Frontiere, husband of Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Rosenbloom Frontiere. The indictment alleges that Frontiere, who told SI's Armen Keteyian that he was "shocked" and "confused" by the grand jury's action, cheated on his 1980 federal income tax by failing to report income—"hundreds of thousands of dollars," say prosecutors—from the sale of thousands of tickets to that year's Super Bowl and by falsely claiming $116,335 worth of complimentary tickets as a publicity expense. The indictment further charges that the Emmy-award-winning composer lied to the Internal Revenue Service when questioned about his tax return and that he attempted to obstruct the IRS investigation. Even though Georgia and Dominic Frontiere filed a joint income tax return for 1980 (they were married in July of that year), Georgia was not named in the indictment.
The indictment marked federal authorities' first assault on alleged criminal activity associated with what is said to be the widespread and lucrative selling of Super Bowl tickets by NFL league and team officials. Reports of extensive scalping first surfaced five years ago as a sidelight of the Oakland Raiders' antitrust suit against the NFL (SI, Jan. 26, 1981), and last week a major L.A. ticket broker told SI that he has done ticket-scalping business for years with officials of the Rams, Saints and Dolphins—host clubs of 16 of the last 20 Super Bowls. The broker claimed that high-level officials of the Bucs, 49ers, Patriots, Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers, Chargers and the league have also scalped large blocks of Super Bowl tickets through him.
In a deposition given in 1980 in connection with the antitrust case, Raider owner Al Davis asserted that he had been approached about scalping his allotment of 1977 Super Bowl tickets by the late Carroll Rosenbloom, at the time Georgia's husband and owner of the Rams. Davis said he had declined to participate in the scheme, but that after the game—the Raiders defeated the Vikings 32-14 in the Rose Bowl—Rosenbloom had "told me they had made a killing" on the Rams' host-club allotment of 30,000 tickets. Davis said he "was told everyone in the league is doing it...coaches are doing it...everyone is."
June 29, 1986
In the fall of '83 the U.S. Justice Department impaneled the L.A. grand jury to look into Super Bowl ticket scalping. The task was difficult, in part because the Super Bowl is held in a different city each year and because laws governing ticket scalping vary from state to state. Off-site scalping is legal in California, for example—as long as profits are reported on tax returns.
A key witness called before the grand jury was former Rams vice-president Harold Guiver, who testified in the antitrust case that Rosenbloom had promised in early 1979 to sell him 5,000 tickets for the following year's Super Bowl at face value, $30 apiece. Guiver said that several months after Rosenbloom drowned in April of 1979, he reminded Rosen-bloom's widow (who by this time was running the Rams) of the promise, but, Guiver said, she would sell him only 1,000 tickets—and initially tried to charge him $100 apiece for them. She denies involvement in ticket scalping.
Other grand jury witnesses included Jack Catain and Raymond Cohen, both of whom reputedly have had connections to organized crime. They are now federally protected witnesses. Cohen is identified in the indictment as the seller of Dominic Frontiere's 1980 Super Bowl tickets. The obstruction of justice charge against Frontiere alleges that he tried to convince Cohen to lie to the IRS. Last week a grand jury source told SI that David Adelman, a co-owner of Murray's Tickets in L.A., billed as the world's largest ticket brokerage, testified that Catain and Cohen approached him before the 1980 Super Bowl with a huge bundle of tickets, some of which Adelman subsequently bought from them.
In 1984 a restaurateur named H. Daniel Whitman was convicted in an alleged murder-for-hire plot in which Cohen was the intended victim. The conviction was overturned, and a new trial is pending. In the first trial a tape was played of a conversation between Whitman and an alleged conspirator. In the conversation Whitman said that Cohen was "blackmailing" Dominic Frontiere and "that's what started the whole thing." No charges were brought against Frontiere in the alleged murder plot against Cohen.
Frontiere's indictment may not be the end of the government's investigation into Super Bowl ticket scalping. U.S. Attorney Robert C. Bonner, who headed the investigation for the Justice Department, told SI's Jack Tobin last week that the indictment did not make the grand jury's probe "a dead letter. I would expect that there would be some further evaluation made at a later time, possibly after the case against Mr. Frontiere is taken care of."
THE TRASH MAN COMETH
Frank Domarus is a garbage collector in Highland Park, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul, and for the last four summers he has been finding some unusual throwaways taped to a particular trash can along his route: Twins tickets. The tickets always come in pairs, sealed in white unmarked envelopes. They're a gift from a couple that holds season tickets but can't always attend. The couple used to throw their unused tickets in the garbage can until Domarus found a discarded pair one day and said he would be glad to "dispose" of others in the future.
Judging from the choice location of Domarus's seats this season—better than ever before—his benefactors must be moving up in the world, even if the Twins (28-40 through Sunday) aren't. "The company is improving," says Domarus, who attends the games at the Metrodome with his five-year-old son. "We're sitting right on the third base line behind the Twin dugout, next to [Minnesota owner] Carl Pohlad and [team president] Howard Fox." That seems appropriate: The two Twins officials don't have to pay for their tickets either.
STRANGE NEWS ITEM OF THE WEEK
The Iranian newspaper Islamic Republic reports that imitation Hula-Hoops will no longer be manufactured in Teheran because their production squanders imported supplies of plastic and thus is a threat to the nation's well-being.
NOT GUILTY AT TULANE
Last week a six-member jury in New Orleans acquitted former Tulane basketball star John (Hot Rod) Williams of five sports bribery charges. Williams stood accused of conspiring to shave points in three games and of having shaved in two of them (SI, April 8, 1985 et seq.). A conviction could have brought him up to 17 years in prison and $35,000 in fines.
Williams, 24, was the most prominent of the five former Tulane players and six nonplayers indicted in the alleged point-shaving scheme. One of the players and three of the nonplayers admitted conspiring to shave points and entered into plea-bargaining arrangements; two other Green Wave players turned state's evidence in the case and were not indicted. These six all testified that Williams shaved points in games against Southern Mississippi and Memphis State in late 1984. The district attorney also presented evidence that Williams had received payments from Tulane boosters. But the jury apparently put little faith in the testimony of the six witnesses who had cut deals with the government. "They needed more solid evidence," said alternate juror Tommie Leon, "not that plea-bargain stuff."
In the face of such sentiment, the New Orleans district attorney is now considering dropping charges against the four others under indictment in the case, including former player David Dominique.
"I feel great," said Williams after his acquittal. "I feel like I can go on and do the things I want to do in life." Williams, who had been barred from the NBA pending the outcome of the trial, will join the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made him a second-round pick in the 1985 draft.
While Williams's future appears to be brightening, his acquittal has done nothing to alter the decision last spring by Tulane president Eamon Kelly and the school's board of trustees to abolish men's basketball. Kelly reiterated last week that that decision was based on widespread wrongdoing within the program, not just the point-shaving charges.
A CONFERENCE IN WHICH COACHES FLOURISH
If Miami University of Ohio is the "cradle" of football coaches, then the Mid-American Conference as a whole is a veritable maternity ward. When the MAC held its 40th-anniversary reunion recently in Toledo, no fewer than 21 former or current college coaches with MAC playing or coaching backgrounds were on hand. Notable absentees included the great Paul Brown.
Most of the distinguished attendees are shown above. Top row (from left): John Pont (former head coach at Miami, Yale, Northwestern and Indiana), Doyt Perry (Bowling Green), Bill Doolittle (Western Michigan), Leo Strang (Kent State), Rick Forzano (Connecticut, Navy), Chuck Stobart (Toledo, Utah). Middle row: Lou Holtz (William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame), Bo Schembechler (Miami, Michigan), Don Nehlen (Bowling Green, West Virginia), Ara Parseghian (Miami, Northwestern, Notre Dame), Doc Urich (Parseghian's assistant at all three), Bill Mallory (Miami, Colorado, Northern Illinois, Indiana), Weeb Ewbank (Washington University). Front row: Trevor Rees (Kent State), Roy Kramer (Central Michigan), Jack Murphy (Heidelberg, Toledo), Woody Hayes (Denison, Miami, Ohio State), Paul Dietzel (LSU, Army, South Carolina), Tom Reed (Miami, North Carolina State). Also on hand but not in the photo were Bill Arnsparger (LSU) and Alex Agase (Northwestern, Purdue).
As college coaches, these men have won 1,711 games over 40 years. They've also lost 1,014—but remember, they've spent a lot of time playing each other.
THEY SAID IT
•Jack Nicklaus II, amateur golfer, reflecting on the crowds that follow him around the course because of his famous name: "It's nice to have people watching. They help me find my ball sometimes."
•Gary Williams, Ohio State basketball coach, describing the training schedule he has devised for 6'10", 210-pound transfer Grady Mateen: "We'll lock him in the weight room and throw him some meat every once in a while."
•David Letterman, commenting on the USFL antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in Federal District Court in New York: "There were 150 people in the courtroom—third-largest crowd ever to see the USFL in action."