Referee John K. Fraser has asked the Missouri Valley Conference to remove him from its list of active basketball officials. The conference has done so.
Fraser is the referee who was identified in the March 4 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED as the subject of reports that he had been used by gamblers to control the point spread (on which basketball gambling is based) in certain games that had been bet on heavily. Such rumors about Fraser were not new. The Big Ten, for which Fraser also had officiated, had heard them in the spring of 1956. Fraser's connection with the Big Ten was severed, but not in any way that would reveal he was under suspicion.
Indeed, it was not then revealed to the Missouri Valley Conference that he was under suspicion. He was merely told that available dates on the Big Ten schedule would conflict with his MVC commitments. The MVC, therefore, continued to employ him.
But in time the MVC heard similar rumors. It was acting with pussyfoot discretion at least equal to that of the Big Ten (a minor automobile accident was used to cut him off the MVC schedule) when SPORTS ILLUSTRATED published its report and suggested that it would be much healthier for a sport as recently embarrassed as college basketball if such matters were brought into the open. Since then the MVC investigation, and others, have been proceeding. They have turned up some astonishing facts and have led to Fraser's resignation under fire.
Last week the MVC held its annual spring meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Members of its Officials' Committee and the MVC faculty representatives (the governing body of the conference) considered the Fraser matter for two days. When the MVC refused to make a public statement on its meeting, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED asked four questions. The questions and the answers follow:
Q. At the last meeting (March 10) of the MVC officials' committee you stated that your investigation into Fraser's background was to be continued. Is it now concluded and, if so, what is the outcome?
A. As of this date (May 10) our investigation has been concluded unless further evidence warrants the case being reopened. Mr. Fraser has requested that he be removed from the list of active officials.
Q. Have you received information from official sources that Fraser has a criminal record and has associations with gamblers?
A. On the 30th of March, 1957 we received information from law-enforcement agencies that Mr. Fraser has a conviction dating back 22 years. On that same date information was received that alleged association with gambling elements was being investigated.
Q. Do you consider Fraser a suitable man to referee your college basketball games?