SI Vault
John Papanek
December 10, 1979
Scant weeks after the sordid revelations regarding Arizona State's football program, investigators have uncovered a skein of wrongdoing, including a phony transcript for a UNM basketball player and a case of alleged bribery
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 10, 1979

Now New Mexico Feels The Heat

Scant weeks after the sordid revelations regarding Arizona State's football program, investigators have uncovered a skein of wrongdoing, including a phony transcript for a UNM basketball player and a case of alleged bribery

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

Goldstein: Okay, so I did that. So, I'm leaving for a recruiting trip. I'm gonna be in New Jersey Monday, get an envelope, mail it myself. Special Delivery, Air Mail, and it's being shipped out there.

On Nov. 23 the FBI intercepted the forged transcript in a Los Angeles post office. It had been mailed from New Jersey, special delivery. It was embossed with the seal of Mercer County Community College. It was made out for Craig Gilbert and included a non-existent address in Trenton.

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, FBI agents searched Goldstein's office and his home, and their report indicated that they found a Mercer County Community College envelope, a Mercer transcript-request form, a Mercer official embossing seal, telephone message notes with the name of Lee Porter ( Oxnard basketball coach), the address of Bob Maruca and a manila folder containing Mercer transcripts for Craig Gilbert and Andre Logan. Logan, a senior co-captain on the New Mexico team, transferred from Mercer in 1978. Because his transcript was found in Goldstein's apartment, university officials at first suspected it may have been doctored, and Logan was kept off the plane to Colorado. But his eligibility was later confirmed, and he joined the team in Boulder for the game Saturday night, which the Lobos lost 86-78.

The NCAA last week was silent on the New Mexico situation. The university has until Feb. 1 to answer the NCAA's charges, but everyone at New Mexico is prepared for the worst. The athletic department had been without a director since McDonald was relieved in October, until last week when John Bridgers, the former AD at Florida State, was hired. At his press conference to announce the suspensions of Ellenberger and Goldstein, UNM President Davis said it was "lack of leadership and discipline for the past several years that allowed things to deteriorate so badly." Davis cited a letter sent Nov. 7, 1978 from Mercer registrar Donald Beach to Fred M. Chreist Jr., then the New Mexico registrar, saying that Goldstein had asked a number of instructors at Mercer to change grades of a basketball player who might transfer to New Mexico. "McDonald reprimanded Goldstein then," said Davis. "I just learned about the letter this week. Obviously the reprimand had little effect on Manny."

Ellenberger remained out of public view all last weekend. He called Assistant Coach Harrison in Boulder on Friday, and between fits of sobbing, he told Harrison that he had had four conversations with Goldstein regarding Goldstein's plan to forge the Gilbert transcript and that in the first three he told Goldstein not to do it. "And the fourth one had to be the one that was taped," said Ellenberger.

Craig Gilbert thus becomes another unfortunate victim of the recruiting industry. Friday night he was holed up in his dormitory room, learning of his fate only by reading the papers and watching the television news. "I heard tonight that I'm ineligible for the rest of the year," he said somberly. "I didn't know anything about this until the FBI asked me if I ever went to Mercer College. I told them I never heard of it. I was never out of California in my life before I came to New Mexico." Did he know when he was at Oxnard that he would be short of credits? "I never knew anything about credits," he said. "The school's supposed to take care of that." He admitted that he did not go to class very often, and that when basketball was not in season he barely went at all.

Goldstein first approached Gilbert after an Oxnard game against L.A. Trade-Tech last winter. "At that time I didn't want to go to New Mexico," Gilbert says. "Some friends told me that it was like Vegas [ University of Nevada-Las Vegas] and that it was just a matter of time before they would get caught. But in March, I came up here to a game, saw the big crowd and decided I had to come. Yeah, definitely, I wanted that." He says he had no idea that he would be ineligible. But just in case, he says, he enrolled in two summer courses at Compton ( Calif.) Community College. No one at New Mexico seemed to know that Gilbert went to Compton. "I took two classes," says Gilbert. "A math class and, uh, I think the other was a sex-education class." Gilbert says that if he loses his eligibility to play basketball at New Mexico he is through with school. He says he will go back home to Santa Barbara and "just find something to do. The classes aren't going to help me that much." Right now he is enrolled in two black-history courses (he's not sure of their names or numbers), Speech Communication, Swimming and Fundamentals of Baseball.

Though Ellenberger was unavailable to discuss the current troubles at UNM, he had given SI an insight into his philosophy in an interview last June. "I make sure to tell them," he said, "you don't eat basketballs for breakfast. The amount they listen depends on how much fear they have. Fear of not making it, of going back to the streets, of not being a well-rounded person. No matter how much you say that, most of them just don't comprehend anything past the present day. What's a young man going to have when he wakes up and realizes he made a mistake?"

By Saturday, Manny Goldstein was found, shaken and distraught, at his apartment on the east side of town. He said he had told the FBI everything, admitted guilt in the transcript forgery, taken all the blame. But he said that he was led to believe by Oxnard Coach Lee Porter that Gilbert would be eligible. "Porter said he had 48 hours," Goldstein said. "That he would be eligible. Do I feel bad for the kid? Yup. But no matter how badly I feel, who do you think screwed him? You think I screwed him? He did not have 48 hours. I found out [in] November.... Now tell me what I can possibly do to get him eligible? I took a chance. Yup. I did it. Yup. The kid had no future so I stuck my neck out for him. And now it's chopped. Now I suffer. He had nothing to lose. He's not eligible, O.K.? And then he is eligible, O.K.? And now he's not eligible. So what did I do? They have me for changing a transcript or allegedly making one up. Now you tell me how bad a crime I did. I bought a seal. I didn't steal it. I went to a print shop and had it made, and I bought it. To get that stuff? The papers? Let me tell you it can be done at any school. Did I try to hurt the kid? He's not eligible! He had nothing to lose. He's screwed no matter what. I considered everything. This was the last resort. I didn't do anything illegal until I had to. So I'm the worst criminal in the world; I'm worse than Frank Kush [the former Arizona State football coach]. I'm worse than any of them. I'm no martyr. I just did something that I regret."

Soon enough Craig Gilbert will be back in Santa Barbara, "just finding something to do." He has not spoken to Manny Goldstein, but if he does, he says, "I will tell him that people like him belong behind bars. He could have told me what was going on. I could have made the decision for myself. I don't know if he did it for me or if he did it for the school. I'd like to think he did it for me."

1 2 3 4 5