They would always place their bets on Friday because Saturday
they were just too busy. They had to get taped and go to
meetings and eat a pregame meal, and, besides, when you were
supposed to have your mind on the opponent, it just didn't seem
right to go looking for a pay phone to lay down $50 on, say,
Florida State minus 14 1/2. So on Fridays during the fall of
1993 these half-dozen or so football players at a Southeastern
Conference school would leave their wagers with a friend or a
roommate, who would call them in to a bookie on Saturday morning.
This is an article from the April 17, 1995 issue
``I'd just say to my roommate, `If the line stays the same
tomorrow, give me a quarter [$25] on that game; if the line
moves, don't bet on it,' '' one of the players told SI on the
condition that neither he nor his school be identified.
``Whenever I saw a college game I liked, I'd say, `Get me down
on that.' I never paid attention to the scores while I was
actually playing, but afterward I'd watch for the games I had
bet on. You bet to have fun. It makes the game a little more
interesting when you're watching it.''
This player, one of three starters in the group, wagered on
college and NFL games that autumn, usually betting $25 or $50 a
game. ``Some guys on the team bet more than me, some guys bet
less,'' he said, adding that he monitored the point spread on
his own team's games, though he never bet on them. ``I remember
our last game of the year. We were favored by a little, and I
said, `God, we're going to win by more than that.' And we did.''
His big score came on New Year's Day, 1994, when he won $800
betting on bowl games, putting to use an autumn's worth of inside
knowledge. ``One game was easy money,'' he said of a game
involving an SEC team, ``just real easy money.''
As reported in the first two parts of this series, gambling is
rampant on college campuses across the country. Students, often
bright but naive, bet -- and lose -- substantial sums of money on
sporting events. Other collegians become bookmakers who prey on
the innocence of their peers while fancying themselves savvy
entrepreneurs. In fact, some of the fervor attached to college
sports is an outgrowth of desperate wagering. Yet all of this
illegal activity is conducted with much the same acceptance
accorded to jaywalking: It's not right, but nobody gets hurt.
That attitude is erroneous, for there is hurt at every level of
the gambling process. Athletes who bet or give advice to others
who are wagering on games are flying in the face of NCAA
regulations, jeopardizing their eligibility and their schools'
reputations, and perhaps compromising the integrity of the games.
Many students are betting far beyond their means, plunging deep
into debt and developing a habit that could haunt them long past
college. In the extreme, some undergraduates are even committing
criminal acts to get the cash they need to pay bookmakers.
Article 10.3 of the NCAA Manual is titled ``Gambling Activities.''
By the usual standards of such a cumbersome bureaucracy, the rule
is mercifully brief:
Staff members of the athletics department of a member institution
and student-athletes shall not knowingly:
(a) Provide information to individu- als involved in organized
gambling activi ties concerning intercollegiate athletics
(b) Solicit a bet on any intercollegiate team;
(c) Accept a bet on any team representing the institution, or
(d) Participate in any gambling activity that involves
intercollegiate athletics through a bookmaker, a parlay card or
any other method employed by organized gambling.
The penalty for a student-athlete who breaks this rule is loss of
NCAA eligibility pending an appeal to the NCAA eligibility
committee. According to Dirk Taitt, the NCAA enforcement
representative who handles gambling-related infractions, the
committee has heard an average of six appeals each of the last
three years. Taitt says that this is the only statistical measure
of athletes' involvement in gambling that the NCAA will make
public, but adds, ``Those numbers don't account for the cases
where the institutions didn't seek to have an athlete's
eligibility restored.'' Indeed, after two months of research into
campus gambling, SI found it is nearly impossible to visit a
college and not find sophisticated on- or off-campus bookmaking
operations with a large student clientele that often, according to
bookies, includes athletes.
Clearly the aforementioned SEC players who bet on college games in
1993 were in violation of the rule. And consider the case of a
standout football player in the Southwest Conference, a junior who
says he would never bet on a football game, not only because it's
against the rules, but also, more practically, because ``anybody
can beat anybody else. Pretty stupid to bet money on something
like that.'' Yet in the course of a season, campus betting buffets
him like the wind across the Texas plains. His student friends are
constantly asking him for advice.
``Most people that I talk to, they bet every week on all the big
games,'' says the player. ``They ask me about different teams,
which ones should they bet on. I'll tell 'em. If we've played two
teams [who are playing each other], I know where it's at. Like say
Rice is playing Houston, I'll say, `Take Rice.' But then I'll ask
about the spread. I've helped out a couple of friends.'' . . . and
student-athletes shall not knowingly: (a) Provide information to
individuals involved in organized gambling activities concerning
intercollegiate athletics competition. . . .
Northwestern athletes Dennis Lundy, the school's alltime leading
rusher, and Dion Lee, a starting guard on the Wildcat basketball
team, became more closely associated with the gambling activities
of some fellow students. With its solid academic credentials and
recent history of athletic mediocrity, Northwestern would seem an
unlikely setting for a scandal. But last Dec. 10, after a
university investigation, both Lundy and Lee were suspended for
betting on football games.
The athletes' gambling surfaced in the days following
Northwestern's 49-13 loss to Iowa on Nov. 12 in Iowa City. In
that loss Lundy fumbled on the Hawkeyes' one-yard line with 5:57
to play in the third quarter, costing the Wildcats a touchdown.
After the game Lundy's teammate Rodney Ray -- who knew that Lundy
had been betting on college games -- suggested aloud that Lundy
had fumbled intentionally to affect the outcome of the game. (The
score was 35-13 at the time of the fumble, and Iowa was a
six-point favorite.) Northwestern coach Gary Barnett heard the
accusation and later confronted Lundy, who admitted to gambling on
Lundy was suspended for Northwestern's season finale at Penn State
on Nov. 19, but the school didn't make public the reason for the
disciplinary action until the Dec. 10 press conference, at which
Lee's suspension for six basketball games was also announced. Both
athletes, the school said, had ``violated team policy.'' The
university also said that neither Lundy nor Lee took ``action to
affect the outcome or point spread of any Northwestern contest.''
Lundy also strongly denied to SI that he had fumbled
intentionally against Iowa or had ever influenced or bet on a
Wildcat game. Both Lundy and Lee remain angry that
Northwestern's investigation found just two guilty athletes.
``They made it look like it was two kids with a problem,'' says
Lee, who was reinstated after those six games and resumed his
starting role five games later. ``It's bigger than us. I'd say
there's an athlete in every sport who's involved. It's a
schoolwide problem. The school was so quick to act on Dennis and
me, but they know others are involved.''
Says Lundy, ``Northwestern doesn't want this to get any bigger
than it already is. They conducted their little investigation and
supposedly came up with what they think is the truth.''
Arnold Weber, who was Northwestern's president from February 1985
through December 1994, says, ``I am confident we had a thorough
investigation, took the appropriate actions with the people on
whom we had evidence and acted with complete integrity.''
What the Lundy-Lee affair did was raise the specter of
point-shaving and alert the public to the possibility of a
gambling scandal in college sports. There hasn't been one since
1985, when Tulane shut down its basketball program for four years,
but major point-shaving scandals have been regular occurrences in
1947-50: Thirty-two players at seven schools were implicated in a
plot to fix 86 games. Included in the scandal were players from
City College of New York, which won both the NCAA championship
and the then equally prestigious NIT title in 1950, and
Kentucky, which under coach Adolph Rupp was the national
champion in 1951. Among those convicted were Long Island
University All-America Sherman White, who spent eight months in
prison for conspiracy to commit bribery, and Kentucky
All-Americas Ralph Beard and Alex Groza, who admitted taking
bribes, received suspended sentences and were banned by the NBA.
1959-61: A total of 37 players from 22 schools, including
legendary New York playground hero Connie Hawkins, then at Iowa,
were implicated in point- shaving scandals. Former Columbia star
Jack Molinas served five years in prison for his role as ``master
fixer'' in the affair. o 1978-79: Notorious organized crime figure
Henry Hill and New York gambler Richard (the Fixer) Perry
masterminded a scheme to fix nine Boston College games in concert
with BC players Ernie Cobb, Rick Kuhn and Jim Sweeney. In 1982
Kuhn, the only player convicted, served 2 1/2 years in prison for
conspiracy to commit sports bribery and interstate gambling.
1984-85: Four Tulane starters, including John (Hot Rod) Williams,
now of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a reserve were accused of
shaving points in two games. Two of the five players, Clyde Eads
and Jon Johnson, were granted immunity and testified that the
others had also shaved points in exchange for cash and cocaine.
Williams was acquitted and nobody served jail time, but university
president Eamon Kelly shut down the basketball program until the
These days a scandal may be closer than anyone cares to admit.
College athletes are forever in need of money, which gamblers can
provide in exchange for their efforts to influence a game. And
with the proliferation of student gamblers and bookmakers on
campuses, gambling is taking place literally next door to the
players. Once a player like Lundy or Lee begins wagering, he is at
risk to incur debt. Once he owes large amounts of money, he
becomes vulnerable to offers of cash in exchange for information
or shaving points.
Are players aware of this? Listen to Lee. ``Anyone who knows me
would never question whether I'd throw a game. But . . . it's easy
to miss a free throw or have a ball stolen,'' he says. ``Look at a
college kid. If someone says, `I'll give you $2,000 if you keep a
score down. . . .' College is the poorest four years of your
life.'' Yes, players are aware.
Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton, a former coach at Alabama
and at Vanderbilt, was a player at Kentucky when the scandal broke
there in 1951, though he was not one of those involved in fixing
games. ``I'm not an alarmist, but history would suggest that it's
going to happen again,'' says Newton. ``More so because we've
become so desensitized to gambling. If it can happen in an era
when there wasn't a mind-set of acceptance [Kentucky in the late
1940s and early '50s], it certainly can happen more readily now. I
just have a bad gut feeling that something is going to happen
Indeed, while there hasn't been a point-shaving scandal in 10
years, incidents of college athletes involved in sports betting
have arisen periodically since then. The most significant cases:
In 1989 four football players from the University of Florida,
including star-quarterback-to-be Shane Matthews, then a redshirt
freshman, were suspended for betting on football games. Two weeks
later nine University of Arkansas athletes in four sports were
suspended for betting on college football games (none of the
athletes were football players). In '92 five members of the men's
basketball team at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., fell
$54,000 in debt betting with a student bookie. Christopher
Simmons, a co-captain on the Bryant basketball team, and Scott
Kent, a former University of Rhode Island football player, were
each sentenced to five years' probation and 100 hours of community
service. Also that year 19 University of Maine athletes (13
baseball players and six football players) were suspended during
the school's investigation into a campus sports-betting operation.
In a case discovered by SI but never investigated by local
police or campus authorities, nearly every team member in a
nonrevenue sport at an Atlantic Coast Conference school was
involved in illegal sports betting in the winter of 1993-94,
according to the team's coach, placing the program in jeopardy.
The situation came to light when the coach became concerned by
one athlete's drop-off in play. ``He was performing terribly,''
says the coach, who didn't want SI to divulge his school or
sport for fear that the university might shut down his program.
``I finally asked him what was wrong, and he told me he owed
$3,000 in gambling debts to another student.'' The athlete's
father paid off the debts, but through the incident the coach
learned that almost all of his players were betting and that one
member of the team was placing all the bets with a bookie.
``The kids tell me it goes on everywhere,'' says the coach. ``I
know that this one young man was very frightened and very
Players aren't the only university athletics representatives who
have to be alert to the snare of sports gamblers. Coaches,
assistant coaches and athletic administrators are wary of
suspicious -- or anonymous -- requests for information about their
football and basketball teams. Just like student gamblers,
off-campus bettors and bookies are looking for a wagering edge.
Said UC Santa Barbara basketball coach Jerry Pimm during the past
regular season: ``The other day we got four calls about [injured
UCSB starter] Wayne Butts from people identifying themselves as
being from papers I'd never heard of. They are obviously
professional [gamblers], and if you don't think so, you have your
head in the sand.''
According to Tom Decker, a retired FBI agent who investigated
sports gambling, ``If I'm a gambler and I can find out that [North
Carolina basketball center] Rasheed Wallace sprained his ankle in
practice, and I can get that information before it gets out on the
wire or on the local news -- even by a few minutes -- well, guys
give their right arm for information like that.''
Kentucky football coach Bill Curry says, ``The whole thing is a
sickness in our culture, and it's the whole idea of something for
nothing. The scope of gambling and the damage that it does to
people is incalculable.''
The date was Monday, Nov. 1, 1993. Alex Andrews (not his real
name) can recite it like his birthday. Talk about your
incalculable damage. He was 22 years old, living in Los Angeles,
17 months out of college, feeding a gambling habit that had grown
to possess him when he was a student. He was $12,000 in debt on
his credit card and had lost his job with a large advertising
agency. ``I got up, I didn't brush my teeth, I didn't shave, I
didn't use any deodorant,'' says Andrews. ``I didn't give a damn.
I was like an animal.''
At 10 that morning, after telling his girlfriend that he was going
out to look for work, Andrews drove instead to one of L.A.'s legal
card clubs. He needed $500 to pay his rent, so he immediately took
out another $500 on his credit card with the goal of doubling it.
He sat down at a $10 Texas Hold 'em table. ``The big boys,'' says
Andrews. ``Much higher than I was used to.''
The overwhelming desire to gamble that led Andrews to this smoky
club began when he was in high school in the affluent
Washington, D.C., suburb of Bethesda, Md., and reached full
bloom during his four years at a college in the South, which he
did not want to name. It was all sports betting, at first $25 a
game, then $50, then $100 or more. Silly games. Any games.
Andrews says he lost $1,700 as a junior and can't even remember
how much as a senior. Then he got a job in Los Angeles, bringing
home $1,000 a week. ``I was a bright guy with a good job,'' he
says. ``I was 22 years old. And I chose to gamble the -- --
out of myself.''
That November day at the card club, swimming in debt and devoid
of pride, he was beating the big boys and at one point was up
$2,000 -- enough to pay his rent, lop $1,000 off his plastic
debt and still have $500 cash in his pocket if he walked out at
that point. No chance. ``It's never enough,'' he says. ``You
never stop. I ended up losing all of that and took out another
$500 on my credit card and lost that, too.'' He walked out of
the club at two in the morning, after having played cards for 15
hours. ``I literally said, `That's it. I'm done,' '' says
Andrews. ``I went home and called Gamblers Anonymous that night.''
Henry Lesieur, chair of the criminal justice department at
Illinois State University and the acknowledged dean of gambling
researchers in the U.S., says that roughly 5.5% of American
college students are pathological gamblers. And according to the
Las Vegas Veterans Affair Medical Center's Dr. Rena Nora, a
psychiatrist who has been treating compulsive gamblers for more
than 20 years, ``Vulnerability to gambling depends on two basic
things: accessibility to cash and how clever a person is.'' By
those measures college kids are more vulnerable than most groups.
What's more, campus gambling takes place in a social environment
with all the peer pressure and attendant bravado and momentum of a
toga party. Once it begins, there is pressure to keep betting.
In some cases the desperation that gamblers feel, even in college,
can lead to something worse than debt and compulsion. In the
spring of 1992 Keith Tubin, a student at the University of
Nevada-Las Vegas, stole a total of $89,000 from eight Las Vegas
banks to pay gambling debts. Tubin is now serving a 10-year prison
sentence in Colorado. On Aug. 17, 1993, Josh Levine, a University
of Texas senior honor student, stole $12,097 from the First State
Bank in Austin, for the purpose of paying gambling debts. Eleven
months later Levine was sentenced to 106 months in prison, but he
is free while awaiting appeal.
And for student bookmakers there is always the possibility --
however remote -- that they will be caught and punished. Student
bookmakers were arrested in both the Bryant and Maine scandals and
at Michigan State in 1992. A former Tucson sportscaster, Mark
Rubin, and three Arizona State undergraduates were arrested in
February 1994 after Tempe police first infiltrated and then busted
a bookmaking operation that was handling more than $120,000 a
month in action. Rubin pleaded guilty to a felony charge of
promotion of gambling and was fined $5,000 and placed on
probation. Students Mitch Friedman, Karry Moore and Keith Rudolph
also pleaded guilty to promotion of gambling, but none of the
three served any jail time and none were expelled from school.
Despite all this, the voices urging that steps be taken to stem
the tide of campus gambling are mere whispers in the wilderness.
For most university officials campus gambling is a low-priority
problem, in part because of their ignorance of its pervasiveness.
The NCAA's influence is limited to student-athletes, and even
among athletes, betting illegally on noncollegiate sporting events
isn't punishable by the NCAA. Most coaches, meanwhile, are blinded
by dated stereotypes of the gambler or bookie, unaware of the
widespread presence of student gambling on their campuses.
Northwestern's Weber, who was president of the University of
Colorado from 1980 to '85, is one administrator who dismisses the
possibility that gambling is a broad problem on his campus or that
it should be addressed as such. ``Unless we find evidence to the
contrary, this is not a sign of moral decay here. I've been
attending presidents' meetings for 15 years for the Big Eight and
the Big Ten, and the issue of gambling has never been
Arnie Wexler, a leading consultant on compulsive gambling, wrote
a blistering editorial in the Jan. 11 issue of the NCAA's staid
house organ, The NCAA News, highlighting the troubles associated
with campus gambling. The piece was punctuated with a phone
number where Wexler could be reached. How many colleges have
since called him to lecture? None. ``It blows my mind,'' says
Wexler. ``I just can't imagine why these people don't want
The NCAA, while not blind to the problem, is hamstrung by its
limited authority. Specifically, it can't touch the general
student population, only student-athletes. ``The only hammer we
have is [athletic] eligibility,'' says the NCAA's Taitt. ``The
general student population is important, but eligibility doesn't
pertain to them.''
While the NCAA is largely powerless to confront campus gambling,
law enforcement is usually loath to chase student bookmakers.
The requirements for conviction are stringent (typically a bust
requires the actual passage of money between a client and a
bookmaker), and when the bookie is a first-time student
offender, the penalties are generally small. (Bryant student
Matthew Zimmerman was booking $100,000 a week in action and
served no jail time.) The exception is when a bookie -- student
or nonstudent -- threatens a client, who then turns to the
police, which is what leads to the rare bust. Sergeant Tom
McDonald of the Texas Department of Public Safety in Lubbock,
home of Texas Tech University, expresses his philosophy:
``People in West Texas like to gamble. They're gambling every
time they throw a seed in the ground. So we figure bookmakers
are providing a service to folks. We don't pay much attention to
them as long as they operate like a legitimate business and
don't go around threatening kids.''
Although generally as naive as college administrators, coaches
are clearly more informed about the potential problems that
gambling can cause. ``I don't even call point spreads point
spreads, I call them power ratings,'' says North Carolina State
basketball coach Les Robinson, who was on the freshman basketball
team at N.C. State when four Wolfpack varsity players were
implicated in the widespread 1959-61 scandal. Robinson can
describe in detail the afternoon he found out about the scandal
and how, at the age of 18, he was interrogated by the FBI. ``They
started asking me if I was in a certain bar with these certain
people, and I just shouted, `I didn't drink any beer!' '' Robinson
says. But 34 springs later there is little humor in his
recollection. ``I tell the story to every one of my teams,'' he
Kentucky's Curry, an NFL veteran who played two seasons in Green
Bay for Vince Lombardi, is adamant in his opposition to gambling.
``I've seen it too much,'' he says. ``I've seen what it does. I
became aware of [gambling] because I have friends in the FBI.
Lombardi was paranoid about this, so I've sort of adopted the same
thing. What we try to encourage is, `Don't bet on anything, ever.'
I've seen $2 poker games in the NFL become $10,000 poker games.
Guys get competitive.''
But Robinson, Curry and Kentucky's Newton are all exceptional in
their zeal. Auburn football coach Terry Bowden, whose team plays
in the Southeastern Conference, where student betting and
bookmaking are rampant, says of his campus, ``I would be shocked
if it's a major problem among the students. I don't see how
students bet, because they don't have the kind of capital to put
$100 down on this or that game every week.'' There is a vast gap
between his perception and reality -- a gap that may be due, in
part, to the fact that there are no physical signs of compulsive
gambling, no hangovers or bloodshot eyes.
During an early February meeting of Gamblers Anonymous in
Southern California, a 48-year-old man sat before 13 other group
members. ``This gambling, it's the full load,'' he said, his
voice quivering. ``If you drink or you do drugs, you piss on
your leg and throw up on your shoes. But with this, you think
there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And nobody
knows about it.''
Even those who do know about it sometimes consider other
problems more pressing. When Thomas Hill, dean of students at
the University of Florida, was told by SI that research had
pointed to the presence of at least five major student
bookmakers at Florida, each booking roughly $20,000 in bets
every weekend during the fall with client lists of more than 100
students, Hill said, ``I'm not shocked. I'm disappointed. I view
gambling on this campus much like underage drinking, which is a
huge problem. They're both illegal. But until it reaches the
point where it disrupts the normal course of business, there's
not much we can do. I'm sure what you're saying is true; it's
probably double those numbers. But I haven't had anybody tell me
they're leaving school because of it. I haven't been able to
attribute any broken legs to some guy not paying his gambling
In the summer of 1994 the NCAA men's basketball committee
threatened to deny NCAA tournament press credentials to any
newspaper that continued to publish betting lines. The threat
withered, however, in the face of First Amendment rights and the
possibility of empty rows of press tables at the Final Four. It
also smacked of naive self-righteousness, as if the toothpaste
could somehow be stuffed back into the tube.
Standing in contrast to such high-minded efforts at intervention
are coaches who inadvertently confirm the depth of the problem
rather than attempt to solve it.
The following took place on the first weekend of the NCAA
tournament last month, the start of the 19-day event that
celebrates college sports in all their resplendence: Eight teams
were gathered in Baltimore for one of the eight subregionals,
and Alabama coach David Hobbs was seated at a microphone, just
off the court at the Baltimore Arena. Hobbs was assessing his
team's upcoming first-round game against Ivy League champion
Pennsylvania. ``We're expecting a real tough game, and obviously
the oddsmakers agree,'' Hobbs said, noting that Alabama, the
fifth seed in the East Regional, was favored by only 3 1/2
points over No. 12 seed Penn. ``This is not a 12 versus 5 line.
This is more like an 8 versus 9 line.''
Two days later Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton reflected on his
team's 73-49 thrashing of Drexel in the opening round. ``We won
by 24, and the point spread was 16,'' Sutton said. ``I never bet,
but I always look at the lines because it's amazing how close
those guys pick the games. That's something I watch for.''
The business of sports and the business of betting. Hand in hand
on campus, taking a casual stroll. Business as usual.
Special reporting for this series by Marty Burns, Teddy
Greenstein, Mark McClusky, Chad Millman, Lester Munson and John