WAS THE FIX IN AT ARIZONA STATE?
For more than three years the Arizona State basketball program
has been under a cloud because of suspicions that in 1994 some
Sun Devils shaved points (SCORECARD, March 17, 1997). Last week
law enforcement sources told SI that they expect the starting
guards on the '93-94 team, Stevin (Hedake) Smith and Isaac
Burton, as well as at least two reputed gamblers to be indicted
in early December for their roles in the alleged point shaving.
The probe claimed its first casualty in September, when Bill
Frieder, the Arizona State coach since 1989, was forced to
resign. Frieder, who has not been implicated in the case--but
whose program was also plagued by at least eight arrests of
players, on charges ranging from credit card fraud to sexual
assault to theft--initially explained his resignation by saying,
"Maybe it was time to go." But in an interview with SI last
week, Frieder for the first time acknowledged that the
point-shaving allegations had toppled him. "I've got four years
of negative publicity, and I've lost my job over this thing, and
I don't know what's happened still," he said. "It's frustrating."
The picture of what happened could soon be clearer. The sources
told SI that testimony in the investigation has revealed that
Smith and Burton shaved points in three home games in early
1994: a Jan. 27 victory over Oregon State (in which the Sun
Devils were favored by 14 1/2 but won by only six), a Jan. 29
defeat of Oregon (in which Arizona State was favored by 11 1/2
but again won by just six) and a Feb. 19 loss to USC (in which
the Sun Devils were a 9-point favorite but were beaten by 12).
Smith scored a career-high 39 points against Oregon State--a
seeming inconsistency in the point-shaving allegations--yet the
sources said that Smith was helping to shave points in that
game, and they added that he has been providing information to
December 1, 1997
When interviewed by CNN/SI last March, Smith, then playing for
the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the CBA, denied any involvement in
point shaving; he could not be reached for comment last week.
Burton, who last season played pro ball in Australia and
recently failed in a tryout with the Golden State Warriors, also
could not be reached. His representative, Ed Whatley, said,
"He's cooperating with [the FBI], that's all I can say."
SI's sources said the point-shaving scheme was orchestrated by
Joseph Gagliano Jr.--a Phoenix man who has described himself as
a brokerage manager and investment planner--and was carried out
with the help of a member of a campus gambling ring. When
Gagliano proposed the scheme to Smith, the sources said, Smith
offered to participate if he and two teammates who were to help
in the point shaving were paid $100,000 each for every game they
shaved. Smith accepted Gagliano's counteroffer of less than half
that sum, according to the sources. Gagliano, who is also
expected to be indicted, declined comment to SI last week.
Las Vegas sports books normally see about $50,000 in action on
an Arizona State basketball game. But according to several
sports-book operators and law enforcement officials, a trio of
men who had bet a total of more than $1 million on the first
three suspect games wagered some $300,000 against the favored
Sun Devils before they played Washington on March 5, 1994. There
were also wagers on Washington from a wave of college-age
bettors; the heavy action caused the line to drop from 11 to 3.
(The Arizona Republic reported in August that one gambler bet $1
million, some of it through offshore gambling operations,
against the Sun Devils in that game.) Several of the Las Vegas
books briefly took the game off the board because the betting
pattern raised their suspicions.
Arizona State missed its first 14 shots against the Huskies and
led by just two at halftime. But in the second half the Sun
Devils pulled away to win 73-55. Smith finished with 13 points,
Burton with nine. Media reports that someone--a coach, a
university official, a Pac-10 investigator--may have warned at
least one team member at halftime that the game was under
scrutiny by authorities have been denied by team, school and
According to SI's sources, investigators do not yet have enough
evidence to indict any other players, but the probe will
continue. The sources said that they expect further charges and
that some of those charged could be organized-crime figures.
PAST IS PROLOGUE
A team wins nearly 100 regular-season games and goes on to the
World Series. Then, in the off-season, it starts dumping top
players: home run sluggers, .300 hitters, pitchers with fine
ERAs. We must be describing the liquidation of the Florida
Marlins, right? No, we're talking about those original closeout
kings, the 1914 Philadelphia Athletics, who went 99-53 before
losing to the Boston Braves in the Fall Classic.
The following winter, at the direction of their cost-cutting
owner/manager, the legendary Connie Mack, the Athletics sold,
traded or released eight players, including star pitchers Chief
Bender (17-3, 2.26 ERA in '14) and Eddie Plank (15-7, 2.87) and
future Hall of Fame infielder Eddie Collins (.344, 85 RBIs). Bad
news, Marlins fans. Philadelphia went 43-109 in 1915, the first
of seven straight last-place finishes.
A GENTLE WARRIOR SAYS GOODBYE
Last Saturday night in Atlantic City, thanks to judging that was
outrageous even by boxing standards, George Foreman lost a
12-round decision to a personable young man named Shannon
Briggs. Afterward, Foreman declared the evening the last stop on
what has been an improbable ride. "I don't think I'll be boxing
again," he said after just his fifth loss in 81 fights. "But I'm
not going to cry. I had a wonderful career."
Goodbyes are rarely final in boxing, but since Foreman is 48,
and probably has enough money socked away to forever satisfy
even his own prodigious appetite, it's possible to take him at
his word. After all, Saturday night was supposed to have
happened 10 years ago. When Foreman, all 300 pounds of him,
announced in 1987--a decade after his most recent fight and 14
years after he'd held the unified heavyweight championship--that
he was making a comeback, fans figured it was only a matter of
time before some youngster delivered an age-appropriate whipping
and sent Big George back to his cheeseburgers and his ministry
But for Foreman time proved as wondrously elastic as his
waistband. A scowling destroyer in his first incarnation, one of
the hardest punchers the heavyweight division has ever seen,
Foreman was relentlessly affable this time around, reinventing
himself as the Baby Boomers' favorite big guy. In the ring,
though no longer so fearsomely destructive, he evolved into a
much cagier and more efficient fighter. On Nov. 5, 1994, he
knocked out Michael Moorer to win the WBA and IBF titles,
becoming, at 45, the oldest man to hold a heavyweight crown.
Over the next two years Foreman relinquished both belts rather
than sign for mandatory defenses against dangerous opponents.
Then, in a burst of jesuitical reasoning, he declared himself
the "linear" champion: "Nobody has whipped me, nobody has
knocked me down. I want to stay around until somebody licks me."
Saturday's opponent didn't seem a likely candidate. Though big
and strong, with a record of 29-1, Briggs, 25, was known as much
for his golden dreadlocks as for his ability as a fighter. He
stood up to some thunderous blows from Foreman, and while he
never fully stopped retreating, he did fire back throughout the
fight. "I could have done more," said Briggs.
He'll get his chance. But Foreman, it seems, has fought his last
good fight. "It's time for the young guys to chase the young
guys," said the guy who for so long has seemed younger than them
all. "The way to beat George Foreman now is to outsmile him and
That'll be the day.
COURTSIDE AT THE EAGLES' GAME
Game time was a half hour away, and a nervous tension filled the
makeshift courtroom in the bowels of Veterans Stadium. Seamus P.
McCaffery, a Philadelphia municipal court judge, fingered the
buttons of his black robe. On the field the Philadelphia Eagles
were making final preparations for their Sunday-afternoon game
against the Pittsburgh Steelers by pounding one another on the
shoulders, screaming loudly, replenishing themselves with
liquids. In the stands many fans were doing the same.
At 12:33 p.m. a Philadelphia police officer entered the
courtroom. "We have our first arrest," the officer said.
McCaffery's wife, Lise Rapaport, who was just there to join in
the fun, said, "Oh, cool."
For what was probably the first time in NFL history, a court had
been set up at a stadium to mete out instant justice to the
drunk, the disorderly and the vulgar. The court was established
in the wake of a Monday-night debacle at the Vet (Nov. 10,
versus the San Francisco 49ers) where there were dozens of
fistfights, and someone fired a flare across the field that
landed in an empty seat. The city is committed to keeping the
court--which uses volunteer judges and their staff, operates
without a jury and can dispose only of summary cases that
day--in session for the Eagles' two remaining home games. It is
also significantly increasing the number of police officers
patrolling the stadium. Members of the Veterans Stadium security
staff will don the regalia of the opposing team in an attempt to
draw out offenders, a ploy that apparently worked on Sunday.
At 2:12 p.m. the first person cited, David Sharp of Dover, Del.,
was brought in and charged with disorderly conduct. He stood
before the judge with the help of two officers but without
counsel. There was a little gash, fresh and red, on his forehead.
"Do you understand that you are in a courtroom?" the judge asked.
"Yes, your honor," the football fan said in a thick voice.
"How do you plead?"
"Guilty, I guess, your honor."
McCaffery fined the man $100, plus court costs that brought it
to $198.50, and gave him 60 days to pay it.
And so it went for most of the afternoon. There were 20
defendants, 17 of whom pleaded guilty to summary offenses, which
are less than misdemeanors. Several defendants were guilty of
drinking their own beer, not the beer sold at the stadium, thus
violating the open-container law, not to mention cutting into
concession profits. One man urinated in the women's room, a trip
to the latrine that cost him $300 for disorderly conduct. The
last defendant of the day harassed a woman sitting in front of
him, physically and verbally. His fine was $300--and then some.
"You understand that the Eagles will revoke your season
tickets?" McCaffery asked the man, Stephen Crofton of
"Well, I don't want to come back," Crofton said. "I want to
leave and never come back." The judge nodded approvingly. He
could not have been more pleased.
When Isiah Thomas slipped behind the wheel of his Ford
Expedition last Friday afternoon in Toronto, bound for his home
in suburban Detroit some 200 miles away, it seemed as if half
the Toronto Raptors franchise wanted to climb in with him. After
Thomas announced his resignation as vice president of
basketball, both Damon Stoudamire and Marcus Camby, the young
stars around whom Thomas had built the team, were thinking about
requesting trades. Veterans Walt Williams and Doug Christie,
each of whom had signed a long-term contract in the belief that
Thomas would be running the team, were lamenting their decision
to stick with the Raptors. Thomas was Toronto's most charismatic
and identifiable figure, the pulse of a franchise that may soon
be on life support without him.
Thomas desperately wanted to be the first successful
African-American majority owner of an NBA franchise. He also
wanted to be able to pursue the free agents he coveted without
consulting a higher authority. But last August he and a group of
investors came up $25 million short on a bid to buy a
controlling interest in the franchise. Though Thomas still had
his original 9% stake in the team, it was becoming a millstone
as construction costs of a new arena took about $1 million a
month from his pocket. "This was not the right situation for me
to squander every dollar I had," Thomas says. Translation: He
just wasn't rich enough.
But Thomas also felt that majority owner Allan Slaight, who is
rich enough, was too tightfisted. Thomas suggests that Slaight
was turning the Raptors into the NBA version of the Montreal
Expos, a perennial nonspender. "I don't have a billion dollars,"
says Thomas, "but I'll work for a guy who has a billion dollars.
As long as he wants to win."
Slaight sees things differently. "There was not one occasion
when Isiah came to me asking about a deal and I told him no
because of the money," Slaight says. He denies that the Raptors
are heading irrevocably downward without Thomas. "It's
professional sports," says Slaight. "No one is irreplaceable."
Maybe. It wasn't long ago, however, that Thomas, a Hall of Famer
who won two championships with the Detroit Pistons, seemed to be
the perfect fit for Toronto. Now he will probably become a
commentator for NBC, which has offered him about $2 million per
year. But don't expect Thomas to remain in the booth if he gets
another chance to pursue his dream.
KING GEORGE, KNOW THYSELF
The self-deluding moment of the week--or the millennium--was
this attempt by New York Yankees owner-despot George
Steinbrenner to dispel some far-fetched rumors of trades
involving the Yanks. "I don't do stupid things," he said.
He was short, about 50 pounds, with handsome, almost sinister
features: white fur, a prodigious underbite, and eyes (and
snout) as black as the tinted windows of the sleek limousine
from which he had just emerged. Standing on the red carpet
outside the Savannah (Ga.) Civic Center last Thursday night
before the celebrity-studded premiere of Midnight in the Garden
of Good and Evil, he appeared unfazed by the swooning fans, the
paparazzi's flashbulbs and the custom-made Nonie Sutton tuxedo
that adorned his frame. UGA V, English bulldog, University of
Georgia mascot, SI cover boy and screen star, was ready for his
"He loves being where the action is," says UGA's handler,
Charles Seiler, whose daddy, defense attorney Sonny Seiler, is a
prominent character in John Berendt's best-selling book. "Truth
is, UGA doesn't know a movie from Shinola."
UGA (pronounced UH-gah) had taken a meeting with Midnight's
director, Clint Eastwood, while Eastwood was in Savannah last
year scouting locations to shoot. He cast UGA on the spot to
play the role of UGA's sire, UGA IV. (By comparison, Eastwood's
daughter, Alison, had to audition for her part.)
Before the curtain rose, UGA worked the room where some of the
film's other stars were holing up: Kevin Spacey, Jack Thompson
and the drag diva known as The Lady Chablis, who could not
resist giving UGA a friendly pat. The dog responded to her
affections with an aloofness worthy of Brando, turning his
hindquarter to her. "UGA isn't being rude," said Charles. "It's
just that his face and neck become irritated from being touched
As a scene of him strolling, picnic-bound, through a park played
to a rapt hometown audience, UGA lay curled up on a soft spot on
an office floor, asleep, tuxless, collarless. After the nap he
slipped back into his tuxedo, scratched his ears and prepared to
attend the after party. A familiar voice cut through the din as
he made his way through the crowd. "Somebody tell my husband to
wait up." It was The Lady Chablis. "UGA, wait up for me, darlin'."
Members of the Bearden High girls' soccer team in Knoxville,
Tenn., who were suspended for puffing cigars after losing in the
Amount, in dollars, Portuguese soccer team Benfica spent on
cigars in the past six months.
Times Lawrence Phillips was fined for team infractions during his
19 months as a St. Louis Ram.
Amount, in dollars, that NBC will pay the NBA over the life of
its new four-year TV contract.
Number of those dollars that the owners of the defunct ABA's St.
Louis Spirits will collect as a result of their 21-year-old
Earnings, in dollars, this season by Annika Sorenstam, an LPGA
Eastern time zone viewers who saw Sorenstam's season-ending win
in the Tour Championship, because ABC went to local programming
during her sudden-death playoff.
Family members succeeded in getting some personal items pulled
from the block, but last week's auction of Mickey Mantle
memorabilia netted big bucks.
JOE D., THE MICK AND TEDDY BALL GAME: Sold! $8,625
EARRINGS WORN AS JOKE: Sold! $575
GIRLFRIEND'S LICENSE PLATE: Sold! $1,495
LOCK OF HAIR: Sold! $6,900
THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT, THE SMELL OF THE SNEAKERS
PERFORMERS FROM eight Broadway musicals will present a halftime
extravaganza during the NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square
Garden on Feb. 8. Partnerships between pro hoops and the Great
White Way are nothing new, however, as this historical review
MUSICAL: Show Boat
SYNOPSIS: A work from the 1950s loosely based on the early
career of a Boston Celtics ball-handling wizard.
SHOWSTOPPIN' NUMBER: Cooz's Behind-the-Back Blues
MUSICAL: A Chorus Line
SYNOPSIS: A bawdy look at the off-the-court nightlife of a
SHOWSTOPPIN' NUMBER: We're Lining Up for Wilt
MUSICAL: The King and I
SYNOPSIS: A talented player is doomed to second-class status
in the Windy City.
SHOWSTOPPIN' NUMBER: They Call Me Scottie
SYNOPSIS: The same talented player reprises his role in an
eponymous albeit misspelled production.
SHOWSTOPPIN' NUMBER: I Said My Name Is Scottie,
MUSICAL: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
SYNOPSIS: An NBA superfan en route to a game makes an
unscheduled stop at a mental hospital.
SHOWSTOPPIN' NUMBER: Hit the Road, Jack
SYNOPSIS: The wacky adventures of a cross-dressing star
keeps a franchise in flux.
SHOWSTOPPIN' NUMBER: Dennis Ain't No Menace
MUSICAL: Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk
SYNOPSIS: A brash point guard in the City of Brotherly Love
shakes the league's foundation.
SHOWSTOPPIN' NUMBER: That Ain't Carryin', Fool
HELLO, BIG MAN
What's mammoth, hairy and lumbers menacingly on ice? Not the
abominable snowman but 6'8" defenseman Zdeno Chara, who last
week debuted with the New York Islanders as the tallest player
in NHL history. In skates Chara checks in at seven feet, about a
foot more than the Isles' All-Star sharpshooter Zigmund Palffy.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
A Wisconsin company is marketing--for $395 plus $25 for shipping
and handling--a limited edition nine-inch Hydrastone sculpture
that "captures the image and memory" of Green Bay Packers coach
Mike Holmgren riding to practice on a Harley-Davidson.
THEY SAID IT
Dallas Cowboys defensive back, when asked to speculate on his
team's chances of making the playoffs: "I think you need Dionne
Warwick, not Deion Sanders."