The news of college basketball fixes that broke last week has been six months in the making. It will take at least six more weeks to unwind. There will be:
?Exposure of more bribers and players.
?Involvement of a number of southern state universities.
?Involvement of players and teams in both major postseason tournaments: the NCAA and the NIT.
On Monday of this week, New York City detectives were sent to the University of North Carolina and Philadelphia's LaSalle College to bring in several players for questioning. By Monday, too, it developed that three students at the University of Connecticut—not one—had been questioned. They are Captain Pete Kelly and Glenn Cross of the basketball team and football co-captain Bill Minnerly.
The office of New York District Attorney Frank Hogan has been investigating college basketball for two years, but work on this specific case began last September 24. That was the day a New York gambler named Aaron Wagman was arrested in Florida after trying to bribe a University of Florida player to fix a football game. Wagman was released on $20,000 bail but was put under surveillance. He led the detectives all over the country, until the scope of his operation became clear.
Wagman rarely dealt directly with the athletes he bribed. He had "contact men," nearly always fellow students of the athletes, on a dozen campuses. Such a student would call Wagman in New York when he and the player were ready to fix a game. Wagman, who had little working capital, would then go to a big-time gambler and borrow enough money to pay the bribes involved and to make his own bets. Wagman then sent $2,000 to his contact man, to be split evenly between him and the player. The player was also instructed to act out an agreed-upon signal just before the game started—say, bending over and tying his left sneaker—as final evidence that everything was set. By that time, Wagman and his gambler friend would have their bets down.
To understand how the betting took place, assume that the game Wagman fixed was between Team A and Team B. Team A was favored to win by 10 points. That meant bookies would accept your bet if you thought Team A would win by more than 10 points. Wagman had told his bribed player—on Team B—that his team must lose by at least 15 points. Therefore he bet, confidently, on Team A, giving 10 points.
As the money Wagman and his gambler friend—and possibly his friends—bet on Team A poured in, the bookies would alter the line to protect themselves. Team A would become an 11-point favorite, then 12, then 13, until the bookies took the game "off the boards," which meant they would take no more bets. Wagman had made bets at all the point spreads, and if the fix worked, as it usually did, he won them all.
The New York detectives were just completing their case against Wagman and another fixer named Joseph Hacken last week when they discovered something that forced them to act quickly. Wagman had applied for a passport, was obviously preparing to leave the country.