KJ’s BB Newsletter           April 15, 2001

(sorry Hawkeye, Cyclone and Bulldog fans, this issue is solely about the Jayhawks)


It was great to hear that Drew Gooden decided to remain at KU for next season.  With the avalanche of underclassmen going out this year, it wouldn’t have been a surprise had he announced he was opting for the NBA draft.  The choice is obviously good for Kansas basketball, but for Gooden too, I believe.  It goes without question that most young players would benefit by staying in college another season or more.  It would greatly help these kids develop their on-court talents as well as allow them to mature off the court  --  putting them in better stead in enhancing their degree of success in the pros.

The money is just too much of an attraction.  Did you read that four of Arizona’s starters have declared early for the NBA?  While Lute Olson has a bunch of great recruits coming in next year, who wants a whole new lineup each year?

Given today’s environment, Wilt Chamberlain probably wouldn’t have gone the college route. Back in those days (the mid-50’s), the NBA wouldn’t allow players to enter the league until after their senior class graduated.  So Wilt did go to college and stayed at KU through his junior year.  But, as one of the first cagers to leave college early, Chamberlain signed with the Harlem Globetrotters for a year, before entering the NBA.  But who knows whether he would have become the man he was without his matriculation at the University of Kansas.

Would DeShawn Stevenson be a better player today if he had played for KU this past season instead of sitting on the end of the bench (and on the injured reserve list) of the Utah Jazz?  You can bet on it.  How much can you improve your skills if you’re just watching instead of playing?  While he may end up being a good professional, you have to think that his chances would be considerably improved with the grounding he would have received under Coach Williams.

Although he didn’t land Stevenson, Williams’ record in keeping players from going to the NBA is virtually incomparable.  Only Paul Pierce has gone out early, and then only after his junior year.  This is true largely because Williams recruits those kids who are more likely going to stay in school (with Stevenson being the exception), than those who are going to slip in and out quickly before jumping at the MONEY.  Keep it up Roy.


Tommy Johnson was named to the Helms Foundation’s All-American basketball squad in 1909 following his sophomore year at KU.  A multi-sport athlete, he was KU’s first All-American in any sport.  As the team’s star forward, Johnson led the Jayhawks to Missouri Valley Conference titles both of his varsity years.  He captained the 1909 and 1910 basketball teams as well as the 1910 football team, where he starred at quarterback.  In addition, he ran the high hurdles and pole-vaulted on the track team, earning 11 letters during his career at Kansas.

“But as the team prepared to begin games in 1911, the Jan 24 Kansan ran a story confirming that Johnson would not play for the team that year.  It reported that Johnson had voluntarily withdrawn from athletics after reports surfaced that he had become academically ineligible.  In fact, Johnson had become quite ill with tuberculosis.  Johnson had become involved in athletics mainly to improve his physical condition.  After spending much of the spring and summer of 1911 in Missouri trying to regain his health, Johnson was hospitalized back in Kansas and died on Nov 24, 1911, at the age of 24.”  The Crimson & Blue Handbook, pages 16-17.  


The warning signs of gambling were there in the mid-40’s, particularly in the New York area.  The Illustrated History of Basketball mentioned that “Out in Kansas, Phog Allen warned of additional skullduggery at the Garden, and he even sent Ned Irish (the Madison Square Garden promoter) the name of a player he felt was doing business with gamblers. But he was ignored.” 1

Allegations of point-shaving and game-dumping came to light when a Manhatten player, Junious Kellogg, reported having been contacted by gamblers and the New York District Attorney's office was called in to investigate. While the investigation started with those associated with and around Madison Square Garden, the investigation eventually spread to Kentucky, where it was proven that former players, All-Americans Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, had been given money to shave points in the 1948-49 season.  Originally the players agreed, for $100 each, to beat their upcoming opponent by more than the point spread.  They beat the spread and the dye was cast.

"Those guys were smooth talkers. They should have been salesmen. They took us out for a stroll, treated us to a meal, and before we knew anything, we were right in the middle of it. They said we didn't have to dump the game. They said nobody would get hurt except other gamblers. They said everybody was doing it. And they asked what was wrong with winning a game by as many points as we could. We just didn't think." 2

After successfully doing it again, they then agreed to play under the point spread.  They won that game, under the spread, and entered the NIT Tournament 29-1.  The heavily-favored Wildcats then took a dive, losing to Loyola of Chicago, the lowest seeded team.  Rupp was devastated after the loss. “I don’t know….Lordy.  but I think there’s something wrong with this team.”  The players were paid $1500 for their work.  The team then went on to the NCAA Tournament where they beat the Oklahoma Aggies for Kentucky’s second national title.

The scandal publicly broke early in 1951, when the New York District Attorney’s office indicted CCNY and several other New York colleges for fixing games.  Kentucky's involvement in the point-shaving mess was still to be uncovered when the #1 ranked Wildcats arrived in Minneapolis in search of their third NCAA championship in four years. There they met No.4 Kansas State, champion of the Big Seven. Led by 7-foot junior All-America Bill Spivey and sophomore Cliff Hagan, the Kentucky Cats won, 68-58, and coach Rupp had his third title.

In response to media questions during the tourney, UK coach Adolph Rupp boasted  “The gamblers couldn't touch my boys with a 10-foot pole.”  The victory celebration didn't last long, however.   Shortly after winning the title, the scandal overtook the Cats.   Obviously some gambler had found an eleven-foot pole, as five Kentucky players, over three season, were implicated. An Assistant DA said that practically every game Kentucky played in the 1951 season involved gambling. Groza and Beard, stars of the 1948 U.S. Olympic basketball team and now professionals, were thrown out of the NBA. Spivey fought the charges, but never played another game in college, was banned from the NBA, and his dreams of a rich pro career ended.

When handing down the sentences of the Kentucky players, Judge Saul Streit unleashed a blast against the school and Rupp, calling Kentucky “the acme of commercialization and overemphasis.”   He further said “I found covert subsidization of players, ruthless exploitation of athletes, cribbing at examinations, ‘illegal’ recruiting, a reckless disregard of the physical welfare, matriculation of unqualified students, demoralization of the athletes by the coach, alumni, and townspeople and the flagrant abuse of the athletic scholarship.”  He said that Rupp "failed in his duty to observe the amateur rules, to build character, and to protect the morals and health of his charges."  And he especially reprimanded Rupp for his association with Ed Curd, acknowledged as the biggest bookmaker in Lexington.

Never in the history of the sport had there been such wholesale revelations of corruption. But, although the players were punished, the NCAA didn’t do a thing to Kentucky or Rupp.  However, when the charges of recruiting violations and payments to players were proven the next year, and the SEC voted to ban UK from any conference games, three months later the NCAA was left with no choice but to put the Wildcats on probation and canceled their entire 1952-53 season. 

"Kentucky's basketball history is as much about NCAA investigations and allegations of payoffs   and being shut down for an entire season for point shaving as it is about winning championships." 3


1  Illustrated History of Basketball, by Larry Fox, Grosset & Dunlap, 1974, p. 97.

2  Quote from Dale Barnstable, in Scandals of '51, by Charley Rosen, reprinted by Seven Stories Press, 1999, pg. 182.

3 A March to Madness, by John Feinstein, Little Brown and Company, 1998, pg. 420.


1901:  A game against the Newton (KS) Ajax Athletic Club was recorded as a 2-0 forfeit loss after the Jayhawks walked off the court.  The January 12, 1901 Kansas University Weekly carried the account:  “The game was a rough one, foul plays being numerous and many foot ball tactics being used.  Calling fouls by the umpire only seemed to stimulate a desire for more rather than to lessen the offenses.  The decision of the referee that caused the final dispute showed an inexcusable lack of knowledge of the rules, and our boys were indeed justified in leaving the field.  Much of the rough playing might have been avoided had the game not been played on a dancing floor.  After the game, however, the Newton team, aided by friends, treated the boys to a dance, and the recent disputes were soon forgotten in the pleasures of the hour.”

1921:  Single seat admission to a KU game in 1921 was 75 cents.  The die-hard fan could purchase a season ticket for 10 conference games for $5.

1931:  KU held their opponents to only 29 points as the progressed undefeated through their first eight games.

1941:  “On a yearly basis, Phog (Allen, KU’s coach) seemed to have a tougher time at Iowa State than any place in the league, something of a surprise because the Cyclones’ coach for 18 years (1929-47) was Louis Menze, who played for Phog at Central Missouri State.  Menze was Phog’s best friend in the league but that didn’t stop the rude treatment at Ames.  During a 1941 game, fans flung a dead chicken on the floor in front of the Jayhawk’s bench.”  Phog Allen, p. 156-7.

1951:  On a trial basis before the conference season started, teams were given the option of  taking the ball out of bounds or shooting free throws after a foul.  In a game against St. John’s, KU waived 26 free throw attempts.  With 39 seconds remaining, and St. John’s ahead 51-50, KU waived a FT and took the ball out under it’s own basket.  Bill Hougland’s shot bounced around the rim, and big Clyde Lovellette tipped it in for the win.  “Teams profit by fouling you,” Allen said.  “I don’t want them to have the ball.  I want to show that the foul is too cheap.”

1961: A brawl during the Kansas-Missouri game on national television in 1961 put the future of the rivalry in jeopardy.  “I feel that if this extreme bitterness continues between the two schools, we will have to discontinue playing each other, at least for a while,” Athletic Director “Dutch” Lonborg told the Lawrence Journal-World. 

1981:  Sixteen years after taking the head coaching position at KU, Owens won the 300th game of his career.  Despite joining some elite coaching company, times were rough for Owens.  When he was honored for his accomplishment before the next game, he was greeted by a mix of applause and boos from the Allen Fieldhouse crowd.  I have to admit that I was one of those who booed.  It was about the only time I can ever remember dissing a Jayhawker.  In my estimation, he had let the Kansas basketball program slide down to an unexceptable level, and it was time for him to go. Unfortunately, however, the University let him stay two more years, during which KU only won 13 games each season.