DARK DAYS AT BC A BETTING SCANDAL TRIGGERED BY PLAYERS WHO WAGERED AGAINST THEIR OWN TEAM BROUGHT NEW SHAME TO BOSTON COLLEGE

November 18, 1996

It is easy enough for anybody to gamble on college campuses
these days, but for Chris Cosenza, a junior wide receiver on the
Boston College football team, laying down a bet was especially
convenient. All he had to do was pass along his picks to the guy
in the next bunk. Among Cosenza's roommates in his on-campus
suite was Michael Sheerin, a student bookie who was more than
happy to do business with a member of the Eagles' team.

Cosenza says he knew he was violating NCAA rules that prohibit
athletes from gambling on college or professional sports events
when he made a handful of bets with Sheerin this fall, but he
never thought it was a big deal. He had put $25 on the New York
Yankees to win the World Series and had placed a few $30 wagers
on NFL games. He had played his hunches. What did he have to
lose besides a few dollars? To Cosenza it was no worse than
scratching a lottery ticket or filling out a keno card. He says
that because he broke even, he never exchanged cash with Sheerin.

"Every now and then I'd say to him, 'Can you do this for me?'"
says Cosenza. "There'd be a game on, I'd be bored, I'd just try
to make it a little more exciting."

"I'm not a bookmaker, I am just an in-between," Sheerin, a
member of the BC golf team, told SI on Sunday. "I placed some
bets for a few guys. That's all I did."

Cosenza took comfort in knowing that he was not the only Eagles
football player making bets. The telephone in his suite would
ring constantly, and at times there would be a teammate on the
line, looking for the same excitement. Sheerin would take the
bets and type the information into his laptop computer. Cosenza
would not even blink--gambling was commonplace for many of the
Boston College players, as well as nonathletes in the student
body. "For smart kids," said one of the law-enforcement
officials who last week was called onto the Chestnut Hill,
Mass., campus to look into gambling allegations, "they sure were
dumb."

The seemingly small-time gambling action involving Sheerin and
at least one other student bookie erupted into a full-blown
scandal in the days before last Saturday's 48-21 home loss to
Notre Dame as 13 Boston College players were suspended for
betting on college and pro sports events. Middlesex County
district attorney Thomas Reilly, a graduate of Boston College
Law School, said that two of the players had bet against their
own team in the Eagles' 45-17 loss to Syracuse on Oct. 26; news
reports identified those two as sophomore running back Jamall
Anderson and junior defensive end Marcus Bembry. Reilly said
that one player admitted betting against BC; through an
attorney, Anderson denied having done so.

According to Reilly, none of the players who gambled or the
students who booked the bets are likely to be prosecuted by his
office. Eventually, the NCAA will rule on the eligibility of
the 13 suspended football players--the 11 others are Cosenza,
junior cornerback Paul Cary, senior defensive lineman John
Coleman, sophomore defensive tackle Dan Collins, junior tight
end Scott Dragos (a starter), junior wide receiver Steve
Everson, junior long snapper Kyle Geiselman, sophomore wide
receiver Brandon King, senior linebacker Brian Maye (a starter),
sophomore linebacker Jermaine Monk and sophomore tight end Rob
Tardio--but in some cases BC wasn't waiting. Three days before
the Notre Dame game, BC coach Dan Henning said that any player
who bet against the Eagles would not be allowed back on the
team. According to team members, last Friday the lockers of
Anderson and Bembry were cleaned out along with those of three
other players.

As of Monday, Reilly's investigation had uncovered no evidence
of point shaving, but the BC scandal revealed a deep and
troubling gambling involvement by team members and served as a
warning to all college athletes: When they place a bet with a
bookie, they are risking more than money or the possibility that
bookies might get their hooks into them. More immediately, they
are imperiling the reputation of their institution and their own
athletic future.

After the Oct. 26 loss to Syracuse at Alumni Stadium,
bone-chilling rumors began to circulate in the BC locker room:
The betting that had become popular among the players had
evolved into a disturbing form of treason for a few. The word
was that some players were betting against the team. "Call me
naive, but I was shocked," says senior running back Omari
Walker, one of four Boston College football captains. "I can't
comprehend what would make a player do that." Over the next few
days Walker reported the rumors to Henning, who confronted his
players in a team meeting, asking anyone who had gambled to
stand up. No one did.

The Eagles were 11-point favorites heading into their Oct. 31
game against Pittsburgh, but the struggling Panthers upset BC
20-13. According to Cosenza, Henning exploded in the locker room
after the game, demanding that any player involved in gambling
come clean. No one did. Two days later Henning told the team
captains--Walker, defensive end Stalin Colinet, guard Mark Nori
and safety Daryl Porter--to root out the culprits. The
subsequent players-only meeting lasted more than two hours and
included some heated arguments and near fisticuffs. Before the
meeting broke, Colinet asked his teammates to stand if they had
placed any bets this season, and the response was startling.
Between 25 and 30 players stood. When Colinet then asked who had
bet against BC, no one admitted doing so. "There were a lot of
tears, a lot of emotion, a lot of finger-pointing," says Walker.
"Unfortunately, the guys who bet against us didn't come forward."

That night the captains called another players-only meeting, and
the results were more disturbing. This time a few of the players
who were suspected by the captains of having bet against the
team left the room laughing, unaffected by the gravity of the
accusation. They didn't laugh for long, though, because moments
later they were among five players who were led into a nearby
room where Reilly awaited. Boston College athletic director Chet
Gladchuk had consulted Reilly a day earlier, and Reilly had made
one thing clear: If he stepped in, it was an official
investigation, and there was a good chance the press would step
in right behind him. "[Boston College officials] knew it could
get ugly, but they didn't care," says Reilly. "When was the last
time a college called in professional law-enforcement people and
tried to clean the mess up with no regard for public relations?
To me, BC still has something to be proud of."

In addressing the five players, Reilly primarily dealt with the
consequences of point shaving and/or betting against Boston
College. The players denied having committed either of those
acts. The next day, Sunday, Nov. 3, Reilly returned to the
campus with a team of investigators. It was not the most
difficult assignment. In almost no time they got some players to
divulge the names of the student bookies. Then the student
bookies quickly turned over their records, which implicated a
number of BC players. According to Reilly, 10 of the 13
suspended players confessed to gambling on sporting events, and
the others were easily implicated. "We had everyone cold," he
says.

By Tuesday, Nov. 5, a horde of media had descended upon the
Boston College campus. No story was complete without a reminder
that Boston College was involved in a point-shaving scandal 17
years ago. Basketball player Rick Kuhn received a 10-year prison
sentence for his part in that scandal.

On Wednesday a press conference was conducted with the cold
efficiency of a court-martial, and one sheet of paper was handed
out to the media. On it were the names of the 13 suspended
players. None were being punished for taking part in a pool or
playing a parlay card. "We're talking about bookie bets," said
Reilly. He said that the wagers ranged from $25 to $1,000, but
sources told SI that those estimates were low. One player, the
sources say, lost $5,000 on the World Series. "One of the
coaches asked me where those guys got that kind of money," says
Cosenza. "I told him I have no idea."

According to Reilly, the two players who placed bets on Syracuse
against Boston College wagered $250 and $200, respectively. BC
officials said that because the two players had had little or no
playing time, neither were in position to affect the outcome of
the game.

Amid this upheaval, Boston College was supposed to be preparing
for its biggest game of the season--the nationally televised
home date with Notre Dame. The Eagles juggled their depth chart,
turning backup quarterback Scott Murtyn, for example, into the
long snapper on punts. The game began in a windblown rain before
a sellout crowd of 44,500, and BC made a spirited comeback from
a 21-10 halftime deficit. Walker's 15-yard scoring run and a
two-point conversion made it 21-21 with 10:47 left in the third
quarter, but the Fighting Irish ran off four unanswered
touchdowns to win handily.

After the game, in the parking lot outside the Eagles' locker
room, a small group of women students held up signs in support
of Kiernan Speight, a sophomore cornerback who had been
confronted by the BC captains about suspected gambling
involvement but was later exonerated. Jovelle Johnson, a
sophomore from Boston who painted the word INNOCENT on a sheet
next to Speight's number 25, said, "Henning is just using this
because he knows he's going to get fired and he's trying to save
his job."

If she is right, Henning certainly chose an original route to
job security: He invited the authorities into his locker room,
told the world that his players were betting against themselves
and got summarily thumped by Notre Dame. Now there's a man out
to save his own skin. "What Coach Henning did was amazing," says
Walker. "He easily could have tried to hide everything until the
end of the season."

The truth is, Henning's name had appeared on the endangered list
long before the scandal unfolded. The Eagles went 4-8 last
season and have won just one Big East game this year. In
two-plus seasons, his record at BC is 15-18-1. It would have
been easier for him to keep the lid on the gambling rumors for
three more weeks, finish out the season, let the school buy out
the last two years of his contract and return to the comfort of
an assistant coaching position in the NFL, where he has spent
most of his career. Instead, Henning chose to be the point man
for a program under siege. It was, oddly, his finest moment in
an undistinguished tenure at the school.

"Before the game I told the players that we went through a tough
week, but they did something--they stepped up to the plate and
determined whether they wanted to be cleared or cleansed,"
Henning said after the Notre Dame game. "It wasn't easy; they
knew some of their friends wouldn't be here with them. But when
there's a murderer in your neighborhood, you've got to tell
someone about it. They're young people, and I don't think they
understood what they would have to go through this week. But the
one thing they did understand was that they had to do what was
right."

Still, it was hard to ignore Henning's cavalier attitude toward
gambling among his players. Although he expressed outrage about
the bets placed against the Eagles, he likened the other wagers,
some of which totaled thousands of dollars, to the friendly
action between politicians who "bet a dozen lobsters against
whatever."

Chris Cosenza says he and his buddies had been looking for a
sixth person for their suite at the start of this school year.
Sheerin was looking for a room. Cosenza was aware that Sheerin
took bets, but he considered Sheerin to be harmless. "I knew it
was a mistake, but we needed one more guy," Cosenza says.
Sheerin moved in and opened for business. And quite a business
it apparently was. The CBS TV affiliate in Boston reported on
Monday that Sheerin had turned over a client list of close to
500 student bettors to Reilly.

Cosenza had heard stories about how bookies sometimes operate,
but the headline still jumped out at him last Saturday when The
Boston Globe reported that a Queens, N.Y., bookmaker had put one
of the student bookies implicated in the Boston College scandal
in the hospital last year. The Page One story quoted an
anonymous student bookie--Sheerin told SI he was the source of
the quote--as saying that a New York bookie beat him with a
two-by-four because he owed the man $4,000. According to the
Globe, after the attack the student bookie's father stepped in
and made four weekly payments of $1,000 to get his son out of
trouble.

Cosenza spent last Saturday at his parents' house in Reading,
Mass., watching the game. "I know what we did was wrong--we
signed an agreement with the NCAA, and we knew the rules," says
Cosenza, referring to a form every NCAA athlete signs, promising
to abide by NCAA rules, including Bylaw 10.3, which prohibits
gambling. "But none of this would have come out if the guys
hadn't bet against us."

At 6'2", 167 pounds, Cosenza, who played just one season in high
school, was nicknamed BC's Rudy by one of the investigators, a
reference to the Notre Dame walk-on immortalized in a movie.
Told he wasn't good enough to play football for Boston College,
Cosenza walked on and spent a season as part of the scout team.
Although he caught just one pass in college, the game against
Notre Dame was supposed to be the culmination of a dream. He had
moved up the depth chart and was slated to start against the
Irish, the second start of his college career. Then he was
suspended indefinitely for making a couple of bets, for trying
to add a little excitement to the games on TV. "How do I feel?"
Cosenza said last Saturday. "How do you think? Pretty stupid. I
wish I hadn't done it. It's something I'll always regret."

Kickoff was a few minutes away, but the hurt had already set in
for Cosenza. He gambled away a dream, and somehow it no longer
felt like scratching a lottery ticket.

COLOR PHOTO: PHIL HUBER The undermanned Eagles were whipped by Notre Dame in the gloom at Alumni Stadium last Saturday. [Boston College playing University of Notre Dame in football] COLOR PHOTO: DAVID KOHL/AP "None of this would have come out if the guys hadn't bet against us," says Cosenza (15). [Chris Cosenza in game] COLOR PHOTO: ED NESSEN/AP "There were a lot of tears, a lot of finger-pointing," says Walker (33). [Omari Walker in game]

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