It’s a cold reality that fixing games has quietly haunted college basketball over the years. And the “City Drop” was not the last point-shaving scandal that the city of New York or that the college basketball world would be caught with a left hook by. Years later, Boston and New Orleans would also take their own body blows.
In 1961, Jack Molinas, a lawyer and former Columbia University player, met Connie Hawkins. Molinas, who had been kicked out of the NBA’s Fort Wayne Pistons for gambling on games himself, was not just an attorney. He was part of a major gambling operation that had such a widespread net that 476 players and 43 games were manipulated in 1961.
After LIU’s Sherman White, the most tragic figure to arise from the point shaving scandals is easily Hawkins. The “Hawk,” who was compared favorably to Dr. J, was a stud at Brooklyn’s Boys High, where he was introduced to Molinas. The two became fast friends, with Molinas acting as the sort of patriarchal figure (like “Big Time Willy” in “He Got Game”), that coddles the naïve superstar. When Hawkins moved on to the University of Iowa in 1961, it was Molinas he reached out to when he was strapped for cash.
Molinas helped his “friend” out, giving him money on multiple occasions. And while it was never even remotely close to being proven that Hawkins so much as sniffed shaving cream, their simple relationship would result in the immediate end of Hawkins’ college career before he played in a single game and an NBA ban until 1969.
While “The Hawk” had a stellar NBA career, he was 27 by the time he reached the league and clearly not in the throng of his prime while in the NBA. In simple terms, he was robbed.
After the Molinas syndicate, the NCAA would have a decade long break until more skeletons came out of its closet. In 1978-79, three Boston College players, Ernie Cobb, Rick Kuhn, and Jim Sweeney, were accused of fixing nine games under the infamous Richard “The Fixer” Perry.
Like in New York, the Boston fixes were intrinsically tied to the mafia. In fact, if you’ve seen “Goodfellas” you’re familiar with one of the protagonists in this story as well, the legendary Henry Hill. Kuhn was the only player actually found guilty, serving two-and-a-half years in jail.
If you’ve viewed Martin Scorcese’s classic film, you know the ending to this tale. When Hill was busted by federal agents at the end of the movie for trafficking cocaine, he cooperated with them, rather than keeping his mouth shot and taking a jail sentence. Hill wrote a first-hand account in 1981 for “Sports Illustrated” in which he claims to have won $75,000-$100,000 during the 11-week period he met with these players. Players got paid 2,500 a game. Hill was, not surprisingly, also associated with Richard “The Fixer” Perry.
Hill’s magnum opus opens bluntly: “I’m the Boston College basketball fixer. It was a day’s pay, it was interesting and it gave me a nice feeling. If you’re not a gambler, you’ll never understand, but it was a rush. Here’s what I did: I paid three Boston College basketball players during the 1978-79 season to shave points—not to blow games—in nine games between Dec. 16, 1978 and March 1, 1979.”
Once again, the NCAA got a slight breather for a couple years until the 1984-85 season came along. The key cog in the Tulane scandal was John “Hot Rod” Williams.
“Hot Rod” was arrested on March 27, 1985, and allegedly received over $8,000 to shave points in three Metro Conference games. After an original mistrial, a second case led to Williams being found not guilty on all counts and he went on to have a nine-year career in the NBA.
Tulane’s program, however, did not have the same fortune, as it would be terminated until the 1989-90 season, and much like the New York City programs involved in the CCNY Scandal, never really recovered.
With the Boston College and Tulane scandals coming within a decade of each other, it was pretty clear college basketball had a big problem on its hand it could no longer shove under the rug.
In 1986, then-Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps told SI in an expository piece that, “When you bring these kids in here with no discipline, with no loyalty to self or team or school, with an I-can-get-whatever-I-want attitude, it’s a pretty short hop to ‘I can fix a basketball game.’ I think we are sitting on a time bomb.”
And when the 1990s rolled around, that bomb finally went off.