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According to published reports that first appeared last month, federal law enforcement authorities in New York are investigating charges of point shaving at Boston College during the 1978-79 basketball season. These allegations were made last year by Henry Hill, a government informer seeking immunity in this and other cases. A grand jury is expected to hear testimony on Hill's charges within a few weeks to consider indictments.
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. The players were Rick Kuhn and Jim Sweeney, who were in it from the beginning, and Ernie Cobb, the star of the team, who was with us the last five games (see box page 16). It cost me $2,500 per player per game—except when they screwed up and I didn't give them anything or cut them back. As a complimentary service, I bet money for the players when they so requested.
We really had our ups and downs, but when the last pass had been thrown out of bounds, I had won on six of the games, lost on three, and made between $75,000 and $100,000. Not bad for 11 weeks' work. A game or two I might have cleared only $3,500, but so what? I wouldn't mind that once a week, and I don't think you would either. My partners, Jimmy Burke and Peter Vario, and Vario's associate, Richard Perry (see box page 18), made a quarter of a million or more, and who knows how many millions others made. And the players probably made about $10,000 each.
But, frankly, it wasn't as easy as I anticipated. Nothing ever is.
It sounds simple. Heck, all we wanted was BC to win by less than the betting line when it was favored and to lose by more than the line when it was the underdog. So we'd always bet on the BC opponent and everything would be perfect, right? Wrong. Things can get mucked up damn fast.
The BC athletic director, Bill Flynn, says he's extremely disturbed that someone would come in and take advantage of young people like that. Baloney. Why should I feel bad about the kids? Look, they didn't feel bad about taking my money. And they didn't seem to feel bad in those games when they didn't fulfill their word. All they said was they were sorry but they tried. Sorry? Sometimes I'm blowing $35,000 and they say they're sorry? That's a sorry excuse.
Like a lot of things in life, I just sort of stumbled into this deal. I guess you could say it got started when I was doing time in two federal prisons in Pennsylvania between 1976 and 1978, for extorting money from a Florida labor union. This deal never thrilled me because I was acquitted by a state court, and then the Federal Government turned around and tried me again. Smacks of double jeopardy, wouldn't you say? But it wasn't all that bad because I met Paul Mazzei there and became quite friendly with him. A couple of days after my release from prison on July 15, 1978—I remember because it was my daughter's birthday—I flew right to Pittsburgh to talk to Paul about some business we might do. You got a business, I got a business.
I went to Paul's duplex, and while I was there he introduced me to a friend of his, Tony Perla. I don't know if Boston College was mentioned at this meeting or at another meeting a week or so later. Anyway, Perla told me that he had a friend who was a basketball player at Boston College, named Rick Kuhn. Perla said that his brother, Rocca, went to the same high school as Kuhn and that they were close friends. So Tony Perla said to me, "I'm cultivating Kuhn now. The kid wants to do business. I've bought him a color TV and paid for some work on his car." They had been working with Kuhn most of the summer because they had this basketball deal in mind. Plus, they realized we couldn't do it just with Kuhn. He wasn't important enough as a player, so the Pittsburgh guys talked with Rick about this and he said he'd talk to Sweeney, his buddy and one of the best players. I guess it was a nice talk.