A HIGH SCHOOL FIX?
The news out of Alabama last week was sensational—perhaps overly so. Rick Thompson, the police chief in Florence, told reporters that a two-year gambling investigation by local police and the FBI had turned up evidence that Florence-area high school coaches and officials had been "manipulating the outcome of high school sporting events to cover the point spread by oddsmakers." In other words, they had been fixing games.
Thompson made his charges at a press conference just two hours after authorities had raided homes in seven northwest Alabama cities, including Florence, and seized betting sheets and more than $100,000 in cash. Thompson said that the houses of two former Florence high school assistant football coaches, Ganum Smith and William Floyd (Brub) Hamilton, had been searched as part of the raid.
Reaction to the charges was tumultuous. Local high school fans debated whether certain officiating calls and coaching moves remembered from past games were proof of game-fixing. Area high school coaches complained that they all had been tarred by Thompson's indiscriminate brush. Smith and Hamilton denied involvement in game-fixing so vehemently that Thompson called another press conference to clarify that no evidence existed linking the two former coaches to fixing.
There was ample reason to be skeptical about Thompson's allegations. An unnamed investigator told the Florence Times Daily that the alleged fixes involved tampering with equipment, such as game clocks and yardage markers. But Thompson admitted that authorities had collected only "very general" evidence of game-fixing, except for a conversation between a coach and a bookmaker in which the two allegedly discussed how a high school game might be fixed. Thompson would not say whether this conversation had been recorded, overheard by a third party or described to police by a participant.
"When one of these local bookies puts a line up on a high school game, it's just a service to his customers." says one source familiar with the Alabama gambling scene. "He doesn't really want the action. He can't lay anything off out of town, so he limits the bets to 50 dollars or so, and if he gets a few hundred in action, that's a lot. There's not enough money in it to make it worth it to fix a game."
That bookies establish betting lines on high school games is distressing enough. The thought of high school game-fixing is appalling. To find out if the fix was on in Alabama, the FBI's racketeering analysis unit will study game films from Florence-area schools. The U.S. attorney in Birmingham will then decide whether to bring a case before a grand jury.
HOLY TACKINESS, BATMAN!
At Wimbledon two weeks ago, flacks for the movie Batman handed out promotional T-shirts to fans waiting at the gates. London tabloids quoted one unidentified tournament official as saying, when asked about the wearing of such blatantly commercial garb on the grounds of the All England Club, "Wholly unacceptable!"
THE BO SHOW
The ad wasn't scheduled to run until August, but on a hunch Nike decided to debut its 60-second Bo Jackson spot last week, during NBC's telecast of the All-Star Game from Anaheim Stadium. "We were confident that the All-Star Game would be the Bo Show," says Nike spokeswoman Liz Dolan. "We told him to hit a home run and steal a base and be named MVP."