As the sordid details of the San Diego point-shaving scandal continue to unfold questions will continue to arise. How prevalent are fixed games in college basketball? More importantly, how can it be stopped?
There's no way to know and it can't be stopped.
These are hardly the kinds of answers that most want to hear, but at this juncture there simply aren't any others. ESPN The Magazine's Chad Millman made several poignant comments yesterday afternoon regarding this issue, the most astute being that preventing point-shaving is an impossible task. Players can be educated and told the dangers, but ultimately it will come down to individuals and morals and when dealing with those two, control is non-existent. There's little doubt that anyone playing Division 1 basketball is well aware that shaving points is highly illegal, but threats and rules often pale in comparison to the allure of money to college players who may have never experienced wealth.
One thing is unquestionable here though - it has been an unexpected opening week of the college off-season.
Andy Katz of ESPN.com: "Grier is one of the most well-liked coaches I've come across and has a slew of friends in the business. I've never heard an ill word about him from anyone. Things have gone south quickly for Bill Grier and USD. That's why it's difficult for so many to witness what has happened at USD over the last few seasons. The bad run that has befallen Grier since the Toreros upset Connecticut in the 2008 NCAA tournament -- Grier's first season on the job -- is hard to fathom. His teams have fallen off the map on the court, following that NCAA tourney momentum with a disappointing 16-16 season, then 11-21, then a horrific 6-24 this past season. The Toreros did have one highlight this season, beating Saint Mary's at home when the Gaels were atop the WCC. But there have been costly defections, notably losing the team's top rebounder and inside presence in Rob Jones to the rival Gaels. And now this -- a point-shaving scandal that led to the arrests of former assistant coach Thaddeus Brown and the school's all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson. There is no way anyone could have guessed that this quaint Catholic school up on the hill in a scenic part of San Diego would be a part of such a sordid scandal. This is a crushing blow for the West Coast Conference, which had been on a roll as of late. BYU joined the league and just locked up coach Dave Rose with a lucrative new deal. Gonzaga continues to roll along. Saint Mary's survived another coaching carousel and kept Randy Bennett. And now USD, the worst team in the league, is embroiled in a scandal."
Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com: "Pay the players! You get what you deserve! College sports is rigged! The whole system is corrupt! It's really not, though. Think about it. You believe what happened with San Diego is a spreading virus in college basketball, even to smaller degree? Unlikely. This case involved 10 people. Ten! It took 10 idiots to try and pull this scheme off, still it was doomed from the start. The FBI's investigation into San Diego basketball has been going on for a year, which is just a little bit shorter time than when the first Toreros game was thrown in February of 2010. The deed was done and investigators got a sniff almost immediately. The charges against Torero players Brandon Johnson (right), San Diego's all-time leader in points and assists, and Brandon Dowd, as well as former assistant coach Thaddeus Brown, read like something out of a television show. "Conspiracy to commit sports bribery, operate an illegal sports bookmaking service and distribute marijuana," the indictment reads. But they were only a small part of an overarching drug scheme. The basketball players' involvement in this drives our reactions, but the investigation didn't even begin with intentions of bringing down a basketball program. It was about the drugs. The nicknames for the men involved in this -- Shazy, Bird, Slick Rick, Guyline, Weenie -- are all too good to be true. When you're dealing with code names, it goes way deeper than merely fixing West Coast Conference basketball games."
Ashby Jones of the Wall Street Journal: "Every so often, a point-shaving scandal rumbles through college basketball, and we always find ourselves surprised. Not because it's surprising that lesser-known college hoopsters essentially sell games for cold cash. No, we find ourselves somewhat surprised that U.S. attorneys' offices and other law enforcement resources go after these folks to the degree that they do. Yes, we know that shaving points for dough is criminal, and prosecutors gotta do what they gotta do. But college basketball and gambling? Who's the victim here? Shouldn't the feds be saving their resources for drug peddlers and corrupt politicians?"
Peter Thamel of the New York Times: "For all of the suspensions, fines and N.C.A.A. investigations in the past year in college sports, few have posed a threat to the integrity of the games themselves like Monday's announcement that two former University of San Diego basketball players and a former assistant were among 10 people indicted in a point-shaving scheme. The federal indictments, which also included charges of illegal bookmaking and marijuana distribution, raised a vexing question: how often are college basketball games fixed? "I don't think it's common, but I also don't think that anyone is immune," said Julie Roe Lach, the N.C.A.A.'s vice president for enforcement. She added, "We are talking about the integrity of college sports when you're talking about this issue." Opinions vary on just how many games are compromised each year. Justin Wolfers, an associate professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, did a forensic study of college basketball games and point spreads in 2006. He concluded that point shaving appeared to occur in 5 percent of games with large spreads. In a telephone interview Tuesday, he said that it was hard to pin down a finite number of games that are fixed. "We're certain that the answer isn't zero," he said, adding, "My guess is it could be as high as 30 games a year."
Michael McKnight of SI.com: "All eight defendants pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. Dowdy, a wispy former guard who played 13 games for USD in 2006-07 before transferring to UC-Riverside (where he played 55 games between 2008 and 2010), appeared dejected and embarrassed in court, with both thumbs alternately supporting his chin or pinching the top of his nose. His mother arrived midway through the proceeding and whispered to a reporter that she'd only learned of the matter the day before. "I'm shocked, definitely," she said, asking that her name be withheld. "This is totally out of character." She had never seen the other defendants before, she added, and Brandon had never mentioned them. The morning's most emotional moment came when the defendant seated next to Dowdy, 34-year-old David Gates, who is charged with aiding in the collection of betting debts, wept openly as Judge Porter and a public defender reviewed his meager circumstances. According to a Pretrial Services report, Gates has been homeless for the last three months. Prosecutors cited his "two prior drug convictions, a DUI arrest, and several probation revocations" as reason for requesting an appearance bond. Gates is also a documented gang member."
Rob Dauster of Ballin' Is A Habit with an interesting look at possible games that could have been fixed by Brandon Johnson.
Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register: "Will Clyburn will finish his college basketball career not far from where it started. The 6-foot-7 forward said Tuesday he will transfer from Utah to Iowa State - after starting his career at Marshalltown Community College. "I got caught up in a coaching change at Utah," said Clyburn, who played last season for the fired Jim Boylen. "After he got fired, I thought about leaving - to get back closer to home." Clyburn, of Romulus, Mich., was a second-team all-Mountain West selection after averaging 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds last season. He will sit out next season to satisfy the NCAA transfer rule, and then join former Michigan State guard Korie Lucious as the Cyclones' second one-and-done transfer eligible in 2012-13."
Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "University of Memphis junior forward Wesley Witherspoon will return for his senior season with the Tigers, Witherspoon told coach Josh Pastner in a meeting today. Although Witherspoon said publicly last month after the Tigers' NCAA tournament loss to Arizona that he planned to return for a fourth season, he had not officially announced his intentions to Pastner until this afternoon. College underclassmen have until April 24 to declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft. Witherspoon (6-9, 210) averaged 9 points and 4.3 rebounds during a junior year in which he had surgery for a right knee meniscal tear and was later suspended for two games for a prank on the team bus. He played in 23 of the Tigers' 35 games and ranked eighth on the team in minutes played (526) after going into the season as a preseason All-Conference USA first-team pick. "He met with his family. He said, 'Coach, I'm excited for next season. I'm all in.' He's locked in," Pastner said. "I'm very excited about it because of a couple things. He's a very good young man. He's a veteran, and I expect great things from him next year. He's going to be a key guy for us. There's no doubt about that."