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Tulane Rocked, Drops Basketball : Scandal Widens as Three Players Indicted and Cash Payments Revealed

April 05, 1985|Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Tulane University, rocked by a point-shaving scandal and the discovery of NCAA violations, said Thursday it planned to drop men's basketball immediately and permanently.

Shortly after the school's announcement, an Orleans Parish grand jury indicted three players, including John (Hot Rod) Williams, and five other individuals on a total of 19 counts of sports bribery and conspiracy in the gambling case.

In addition, a second nine-count indictment named Gary Kranz, a student, with selling cocaine to three members of the team, who were not indicted on drug charges.

Basketball Coach Ned Fowler, who has not been implicated in the alleged point-shaving scheme, resigned Thursday along with two assistants. Tulane President Eamon Kelly said Fowler admitted making cash payments to several players--a violation of NCAA rules.

Kelly, speaking at a news conference, said he thought it was critical that the 150-year-old private university take a clear and decisive stand, even though basketball teams have been fielded since 1912.

"The only way I know to demonstrate unambiguously this academic community's intolerance of the violations and actions we have uncovered is to discontinue the program in which they originated," he said.

Kelly said he was certain his recommendation to drop basketball will be accepted by the board of administrators and the university senate. He said he thought the termination would be permanent.

A New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Picayune, the States-Item, quoted sources as saying that Williams told prosecutors he secretly got $100 a week from Fowler during the season.

The newspaper also quoted sources as saying Williams told prosecutors he received a $10,000 payment in a shoe box, when he was a high school senior, to attend Tulane.

The money was allegedly delivered by two men, one of whom was said to be a Tulane assistant coach. Fowler was not at Tulane at that time.

Fowler, who was given immunity before he spoke to a grand jury Thursday, refused to comment when questioned by reporters.

Until Thursday, only home games against Southern Mississippi and Memphis State had been mentioned in connection with the investigation. The indictment added a third, at Virginia Tech, but gave few details.

Those indicted were the same eight people who had been arrested earlier in the case:

--Williams, 23, of Sorrento, La., a 6-10 senior center who was Metro Conference Player of the Year in 1983-84 and all-conference in 1984-85.

--Bobby Thompson, 21, of New Orleans, a 6-foot senior guard.

--David Dominique, 19, of New Iberia, La., a 6-7 sophomore swingman.

--Kranz, 21, of New Rochelle, N.Y.

--David (Buddah) Rothenberg, 22, of Wilton, Conn., once a member of Kranz's fraternity.

--Mark Olensky, 21, of Fair Lawn, N.J., also once a member of Kranz's fraternity.

--Craig Bourgeois, 23, New Orleans, not a student.

--Roland Ruiz, 48, of New Orleans, who has a record of two convictions for operating as a bookie.

Two players, Clyde Eads and Jon Johnson, both 22, testified before the grand jury last week under grants of immunity. The indictments said each got at least $2,400 and an unspecified amount of cocaine.

Jeff Epstein, a Tulane student who testified before the grand jury Thursday, was named but not indicted.

The total amount of money allegedly split by the players was not specified in the indictment although it said $13,500 was involved in a Memphis State game, $3,500 in a Southern Mississippi game and an unspecified amount in a game against Virginia Tech.

Thompson was indicted only in two conspiracy counts, although he was mentioned in four that said he took at least $2,900 and one that said he took cocaine. Asked if Thompson had made a deal, District Attorney Harry Connick refused to comment.

He said he would meet next week with federal investigators to discuss the case.

Tulane would be the only Division I school to have a football program but none in basketball.

However, Kent McWilliams, chairman of the board's intercollegiate athletic committee, said shutdown of the basketball program need not be permanent if credibility can be restored to the department.

"\o7 Permanent \f7 and \o7 final \f7 and \o7 all\f7 are words, but in truth there is nothing final but death and taxes," he said.

The NCAA violations were discovered as part of an investigation of the basketball program. Kelly said the first information came from the district attorney, and the university began its own probe.

"It was during our investigation that we confirmed the cash payments to several of the basketball players," Kelly said.

Kelly said he and Fowler met several days ago, and the coach acknowledged that the payments had been made. He declined to say how much money was involved or what it was for.

Resigning along with Fowler were assistant coaches Mike Richardson and Max Pfeifer. Kelly said he intends to accept the resignations as soon as certain contract limitations are resolved.

"I want to emphasize that we have no reason to believe that Coach Fowler or any members of his coaching staff were involved in the alleged point-shaving of basketball games," Kelly said.

A report last week said Thompson had told the district attorney's office he had agreed through a middle-man to have five players, including himself, participate in a point-shaving scheme in the Memphis State game.

Shaving points involves winning by a smaller margin or losing by a larger margin than the betting line that bookies establish on a game. Tulane was a 10 1/2-point favorite over Southern Mississippi and won, 64-63. Tulane was a four-point underdog against Memphis State and lost, 60-49.

Fowler, 41, had been at Tulane for four years. He was named Metro Conference coach of the year during his first season, when the team went 19-9. The team finished 15-13 this year, 6-8 in the Metro conference.

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