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John Underwood
December 08, 1975
College football is vulnerable to rumor. At Kentucky an off-campus murder catalyzed the suspicions
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December 08, 1975

The Setting Was Ripe For Scandal

College football is vulnerable to rumor. At Kentucky an off-campus murder catalyzed the suspicions

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About a month ago Curci received a letter "of explanation, not an apology" from sportscaster Phil Foster. Foster asked Curci to keep the letter "private." Under the circumstances, Curci said, asking him to do that was "ridiculous."

The letter explained, in 2� pages, how Foster had arrived at his decision to report what he considered "a statement of fact concerning the rumors" and "not an allegation on my part." He said the rumors had "sickened him," that he was raised in Lexington and "never failed to support any UK team." He said that racism "is still very much alive in...our city, and there are many persons who would love to see someone like Sonny Collins crucified."

Foster said he himself was "out to help, not harm, the team," and hoped to bring everything to a head by allowing Curci the chance to deny the rumors, but that "even though I'm sorry you are reacting the way you are, and I'm sorry the way Lexingtonians are taking the story, I'm not sorry for doing it...."

Something to be examined, then, is the role of Foster, the catalyst of the point-shaving rumors. Foster is 24 years old, a weekend football and basketball player and avowed UK fan. He says he has had season tickets since he was 16. Foster graduated from Kentucky with a degree in political science last May. Before his decision to become a journalist, he worked a year for United Parcel "but I hated it." He took a pay cut to become a disc jockey/newsman in Mt. Sterling, 31 miles east of Lexington. When the sports job opened up at WLAP ( Lexington's "second-leading station") two months ago, he grabbed it.

Foster says he was two days on the job when he "began hearing things. Everyone was talking about the point shaving." At a UK basketball picture day, he heard a reporter "whose name I won't mention" talking about it. He heard it at a touch football game and at a party after the Auburn game. He said he talked it over with his news director and they decided to go ahead with the story: a 45-second account of "rumors circulating in Lexington." But that was all. No facts (except, as Foster says, "the fact that there were rumors"), not even an "inside," "unimpeachable" or "reliable" source.

Foster says that when he arrived at the station the next day he heard "there had been a lot of calls—media people, the AP, stations all over Kentucky. At first I was elated. Then I started fielding a few of my own. My spirits plummeted."

His spirits, but not his journalistic fervor. Considering everything, Foster says, "I'd do it again. In my own mind, I did nothing wrong."

Just before the last game of the season, with Tennessee, Curci told his players to "put aside your pot and speed and play ball." It was meant as a joke, but nobody laughed. By this time the university had launched its own investigation of possible violations of NCAA and student code regulations, while specifically stating that there was no evidence of point shaving.

In addition Collins had admitted to Lexington police that he had been smoking marijuana the night of the kidnapping. Two other players, in a statement made to police, were accused by a witness of taking amphetamines before the Penn State game. In total, 17 players were to be interrogated about the use of marijuana and other drugs. Even more ominous, according to police, were hearsay reports concerning possible cocaine use by members of the team, although this did not specifically involve Collins.

Not surprisingly, Kentucky was beaten 17-13 by a Tennessee team that was ordinary by Tennessee's standards. A crowd of $6,000 turned out on a crisp day in Lexington to see the Wildcats finish with a 2-8-1 record, Curci's worst and the first time in five seasons that Kentucky had failed to win a Southeastern Conference game.

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