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Cheating the Spread

Gamblers, Point Shavers, and Game Fixers in College Football and Basketball

Albert J. Figone

Publication Year: 2012

Delving into the history of gambling and corruption in intercollegiate sports, Cheating the Spread recounts all of the major gambling scandals in college football and basketball. Digging through court records, newspapers, government documents, and university archives and conducting private interviews, Albert J. Figone finds that game rigging has been pervasive and nationwide throughout most of the sports' history._x000B__x000B_Naming the players, coaches, gamblers, and go-betweens involved, Figone discusses numerous college basketball and football games reported to have been fixed and describes the various methods used to gain unfair advantage, inside information, or undue profit. His survey of college football includes early years of gambling on games between established schools such as Yale, Princeton, and Harvard; Notre Dame's All-American halfback and skilled gambler George Gipp; and the 1962 allegations of insider information between Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and former Georgia coach James Wallace "Wally" Butts; and many other recent incidents. Notable events in basketball include the 1951 scandal involving City College of New York and six other schools throughout the East Coast and the Midwest; the 1961 point-shaving incident that put a permanent end to the Dixie Classic tournament; the 1994-95 Northwestern scandal in which players bet against their own team; and other recent examples of compromised gameplay and gambling. _x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Sport and Society

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

A book of this nature is an endeavor requiring the skills, assistance, and cooperation of many people. The people mentioned here are special because they helped me retain the humbleness and persistence I needed to complete this book. My wife, Jenifer, was exemplary in her patience, support, and understanding, though all..

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pp. xi

Noted higher education scholar John R. Thelin, in his book Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics, has labeled intercollegiate athletics American higher education’s “peculiar institution.” 1 For the fans who follow...

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1. Creating a Game for Gamblers: The Rise of College Basketball

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pp. 1-11

After its invention by James Naismith in 1891 at the Springfield, Massachusetts, YMCA, basketball quickly became popular with young men and women, especially in urban areas that lacked space to play games such as baseball and...

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2. The Golden Age of Gambling: College Basketball in the Postwar Years

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pp. 12-23

College basketball’s spectator appeal increased during World War II. Men over 6'6" were not drafted—the military lacked clothing and bedding for them, and they could not fit easily into the confines of ships and airplanes. “Big men” such as Don Otten of Bowling Green, George Mikan of DePaul, and...

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3. Stinking It Up: The 1951 College Basketball Gambling Scandal

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pp. 24-40

Sports historians, higher-education scholars, and sportswriters have described the 1951 college basketball gambling scandal as if it were an aberration or isolated incident. Their rationalizations in explaining the rigging of basketball games are characterized by healthy doses of righteous indignation about...

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4. Do No Evil, See No Evil, and Hear No Evil: Coaching and Presiding over College Basketball

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pp. 41-60

The year 1951 was scandalous in college athletics: Widespread fixing had been revealed in college basketball, and academic fraud and illegal recruiting had been exposed in college football.1 After the basketball scandal broke in January..

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5. “Do You Have Anything for Me?”: Gambling Scandals in College Football from the Big Three to Bear

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pp. 61-86

Gambling in college football has grown steadily from its beginnings in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Despite repeated abuses in recruiting, subsidizing, and academics, the sport escaped the game-fixing scandals that had plagued college basketball. Since the 1990s, however, college officials, the...

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6. College Basketball’s Incurable Disease: The 1961 Basketball Scandal

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pp. 87-109

Corruption in college basketball became more rather than less pervasive after the 1951 scandal as many major colleges continued with their self-imposed mandate to provide professionalized entertainment for the American public. Critics of college sports viewed the fixing of basketball games as a by-product...

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7. Winning in Smaller Ways: The 1978 Boston College Scandal

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pp. 110-127

College basketball prospered after the 1961 scandal as the ignominy of fixing was buried in the public’s consciousness by the turmoil of the 1960s and the rise of the UCLA basketball dynasty under John Wooden. From 1963 to 1975, UCLA won ten of twelve NCAA titles, including seven consecutive titles...

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8. Student-Athletes and Campus Bookies: Basketball Scandals of the 1980s and 1990s

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pp. 128-136

In 1975, University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant clearly enunciated his view of the role of athletes at a major university: I used to go along with the idea that football players on scholarship were “student-athletes,” which is what the NCAA calls them. Meaning a student...

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9. A Continuing Nightmare: Gambling and Fixing in College Football, 1990–2010

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pp. 137-150

In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (also known as the Bradley Act, after its sponsor, Senator Bill Bradley), which made sports betting illegal in all states except Nevada, Oregon, and New Jersey.1 The act sought to preserve the purity of athletic competition...

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Afterword: When the Cost of Winning at All Costs Is Too High

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pp. 151-154

In a November 2010 ESPN: The Magazine poll of a sample of college basketball players, one in four stated that they would consider winning by less or losing by more than the point spread in the face of a 40-point blowout.1 After nearly...


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pp. 155-170


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pp. 171-186


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pp. 187-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094453
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037283

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Sport and Society