Correction: Rob Christensen’s column on Wednesday about the UNC system’s 1961 gambling scandal said that NCSU coach Everett Case had resigned after reforms to the university system’s athletics program, leaving the impression that he had left because of those efforts. The column should have noted that Case retired at the beginning of the 1964 season after he contracted inoperable cancer.
In May 1961, University of North Carolina President Bill Friday received a telephone call from the Wake County prosecutor with a sobering message. “I need to talk to you. I have got to tell you a very unpleasant thing.”
Gamblers, said Lester Chalmers, the prosecutor, had paid N.C. State University basketball players to shave points at a Dixie Classic game between NCSU and Georgia Tech. The point spread was 5 points, and when State won 82-76, the gamblers met the State players outside Reynolds Coliseum, pressed guns into their stomachs and demanded that they return the money they had been paid.
Nor was that the only game that had been tampered with. The State players were paid $2,500 ($20,000 in today’s dollars) to throw a game against Carolina. Two players were paid $1,250 to shave points against Duke. Two Carolina players were also implicated. In all, as many as 50 players around the country were ensnared in the scandal.
This was the worst scandal involving athletics in the UNC system until the current disgrace involving no-show paper classes for athletes at Chapel Hill.
The Graham Plan
Friday told the UNC trustees that the point-shaving scandal had caused “serious embarrassment” to UNC, according to an account of the scandal written by historian William A. Link in his biography, “William Friday.”
Friday said UNC had two options: It could discontinue intercollegiate athletics for a fixed period of time or reform the abuses. He gave some consideration to a plan that had been put forward by Frank Porter Graham, president of the consolidated UNC system in 1935, that prohibited athletic scholarships or any other form of aid based solely on athletic performance. The Graham Plan called for athletes to sign a pledge stating they were amateurs. It also banned recruiting.
The plan was based on studies by the Carnegie Corp. in 1929 and 1931 that criticized the role of big-time athletics on college campuses. The UNC faculty and the Southern Conference adopted the plan in 1936, but it drew such strong opposition from alumni groups and sports editors that the Southern Conference reversed itself.
Rather than push for Graham’s plan, Friday decided to go the reform route. But he pushed for stricter reforms than many had expected, in part because the N.C. State basketball team had recently received the most severe penalty ever meted out by the NCAA – four years of probation – for recruiting violations.
What Friday did
In an effort to “restore sports to sportsmanship,” Friday decided to de-emphasize athletics. For the next five years, UNC and N.C. State basketball teams could each have only two out-of-state scholarships; their seasons would be limited to 14 games instead of the maximum 25, and players could no longer attend summer basketball camps. Perhaps most controversial, the highly popular Dixie Classic, in which the four major North Carolina college basketball teams played national powers, was discontinued.
In addition, Friday said that coaching jobs were “expressly assured” and not contingent “upon their obligation merely to win games or to achieve national standing for our teams.”
In the wake of the reforms, Carolina coach Frank McGuire resigned. Both depended on a steady stream of out-of-state stars. McGuire’s resignation led to the hiring of Dean Smith, who was known as a stickler for running clean programs. N.C. State coach Everett Case retired at the beginning of the 1964 season after he contracted inoperable cancer.
The reforms were not popular in basketball crazy North Carolina.
But as NCSU Chancellor John Caldwell said, the consolidated university’s good name was its “most precious possession.”
Alumni, university officials and trustees, Caldwell said, had to rally around the university and defend its “integrity and moral rectitude and a sound sense of values.”