The St. Cecilia program was founded to give kids an escape from the tensions that caused Detroit's 1967 riots. Such future pro greats as Magic Johnson and Spencer Haywood played in the league at Ceciliaville, as the recreation center is known, and the program had grown to 85 teams and 850 players. But on Aug. 5, during a game between two college-level teams, Steve's Big Shots and Players, a fight broke out on the court. When fans joined in, league director Ron Washington called the game and cleared the gym.
The fracas continued in the parking lot, where Steven Dale Goodwin, the coach of Steve's Big Shots, began arguing with another man—reportedly over a $37,000 bet Goodwin and the man had with each other. The man shot Goodwin twice. Goodwin, who is recovering, refused to discuss the incident, even with police, and no arrests have been made.
Ceciliaville's directors were distressed to learn Goodwin had been convicted of armed robbery and carrying a concealed handgun, and had had three charges of intent to deliver cocaine dismissed. "I'd say 99 percent of the guys who come in here are trustworthy," said church pastor Thomas Finnigan. "But you have that element around St. Cecilia's now—drugs, alcoholism and poverty."
The drug element may be well established. Gym regulars say that drug dealers routinely put up the $500 fee to sponsor a team, pay college standouts to play for them and place large wagers on games. A league referee told the Detroit Free Press that he heard men raising bets by $5,000 during games.
Washington says the program will reopen next year and that every effort will be made to keep drug dealers out. He might check the parking lot. One coach pulled his teenaged team out of the league early this summer after noticing the suspicious number of fancy cars parked outside Ceciliaville.