Sports gamblers once left a terrible taint on college basketball at N.C. State and North Carolina.
While many years have passed, it’s hard to overlook what occurred after the 1960-61 season, when a point-shaving scandal was uncovered that involved players at N.C. State and UNC.. The games, fixed by out-of-state gamblers, would bring an end to the Dixie Classic, a popular Christmas-time tournament hosted by N.C. State., and change the course of the two programs.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that opened the door to the possibility of nationwide sports gambling, though the impact in North Carolina remains unclear.
In the spring of 1961, the late William Friday, then president of the University of North Carolina, was informed by a Wake County prosecutor that gamblers had paid Wolfpack players to fix a Dixie Classic game. The prosecutor told Friday that the gamblers, unhappy with the Pack’s final point spread, confronted the players with guns outside Reynolds Coliseum, demanding the players return the money they had received.
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As the scandal widened, it was learned that four N.C. State players and two from UNC had been a part of the scheme and that other games had been fixed. Nor was the scandal limited to North Carolina. It would touch more than 20 schools in all and more than 50 basketball players.
Friday responded by announcing the Wolfpack and Tar Heels basketball programs would be curbed. Schedules would be reduced and recruiting limited, allowing two out-of-state scholarships a year. The Dixie Classic, which attracted some of the best teams in the country to Reynolds Coliseum each year, was canceled..
"It is our aim to save athletics by de-emphasizing certain practices and removing certain influences which have been detrimental to college sports," Friday said at the time.
The decision was criticized by many. More than 500 college students marched to Friday's home, many cursing and shouting. Others said Friday overreacted by ending the Dixie Classic, a traditional business boon to the city of Raleigh.
"There was a ton of criticism -- snide remarks and other mean things," Friday, who died in 2012, said in a 1995 interview with the N&O. "But the intrusion of gambling discontinued the Dixie Classic. The threats to lives reported to me by law enforcement officers triggered the action.
"To protect the lives of the athletes, it had to be done. It was one of the true great sports spectacles, but there was no alternative."
In a 2006 interview, Friday warned that the pressures on athletes would remain, noting the millions of dollars bet on the Final Four each year.
"That creates enormous temptation," he said.
The N.C. State players involved in game-fixing in the 1960s were Don Gallagher, Stan Niewierowski, Anton Muehlbauer and Terry Litchfield, said to have fixed nine games over two years.
UNC’s Lou Brown admitted to helping fix seven games — none played by the Tar Heels — and betting on other games. Former UNC star Doug Moe also was implicated and testified before a New York grand jury but there was no evidence he was involved in fixing games.
The players were granted immunity from prosecution for helping aid the investigation and none served sentences.
The point-shaving scandal was personally crushing for N.C. State coach Everett Case, who said, "It was the darkest day of my coaching career, a terrible blow.” Case, who had brought bigtime basketball to the state, retired early in the 1964-65 season because of health issues and died in 1966.
Allegations of possible point-shaving at N.C. State arose again in 1990, during an SBI investigation into the basketball program and Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano. An ABC News report claimed that a New Jersey businessman, Robert Kramer, had paid Pack center Charles Shackleford to fix games in the 1987-88 season.
Shackleford admitted to receiving from $20,000 from Kramer, but as a loan, not to affect the point spread of games. He was not charged with any legal wrongdoing.
Valvano, who stepped down at N.C. State in April 1990, denied any knowledge of point-shaving and none of the allegations was proven.
Kramer died in a one-car crash in New Jersey in 1991. Shackleford died of natural causes in 2017.
Boston College was not a member of the ACC in 1978-79 when a point-shaving scandal was uncovered, involving nine BC games. BC player Rick Kuhn and four gamblers later served jail time.