One of the worst gambling-related scandals in the history of American sports erupted in 1951, when it became public knowledge that a multitude of college basketball players, including several prominent stars, had been paid by fixers to dump games or control point spreads. Investigators revealed that many of these “students” were enrolled only because their entrance forms and grade transcripts had been falsified.
This was exactly the sort of knavery that Berea College presidents William G. Frost and William J. Hutchins had wished to forestall when they discouraged the school’s participation in intercollegiate athletics earlier in the century. In the 1920s Berea effected a compromise that satisfied both the student body’s hankering for competition and the administration’s determination not to give way on matters of ethics. This was to conduct intercollegiate athletic programs while limiting and controlling their size and scope.
Just as Frost and Hutchins feared, the eagerness of some schools to inflate their athletic operations fatally compromised those schools’ integrity. The bigger their programs got, the less immune they were to corruption. A nearby case in point was the University of Kentucky, where several roundball heroes admitted in the early 1950s that they had accepted bribes from gamblers to shave points.
In 1951 Berea was, as it is today, far removed from college basketball’s upper levels. But did the foul rot that had eaten away the sporting foundations of big-time college programs extend its putrescent tendrils even to Berea, where the game had always been clean and honest? You be the judge. The article below appeared on the front page of The Wallpaper, Berea College’s student newspaper, on March 28, 1951. Its author is unknown.
“Fix” Involving Mountaineer Team Is Bared
A basketball “fix,” involving three Berea players, was reported from Washington this morning where the Senate Crime Investigation Committee is completing its hearings.
Details on the reported charge were few, and this Wallpaper reporter could get statements from no one here or in Washington.
A telephone call to Washington was shuttled from office to office, and we were finally connected to the office of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Apparently, the RFC would be connected if money were involved.
Three calls to Seabury Gym gave no satisfaction. Jerry Poulson, assistant coach, declined to comment, saying that any statement would have to come from head coach C.H. Wyatt. We found Wyatt later in the morning, and he said that athletic director Oscar Gunkler would issue a statement.
Each time we called Gunkler’s office, his secretary reported that he was not available.
Recent “fix” charges have been leveled at several basketball players in New York. Gamblers and players alike are under indictment on these charges.
A call to Richmond revealed that the county sheriff was playing pool and could not be reached for comment.
Information coming into the Wallpaper office by teletype an hour ago listed Don Brooks, Gerald Skinner, and Charles Baker as the players involved in the “fix.”
Brooks was a regular guard for the Mountaineers last season. Skinner played little during the season. Baker, who plays at center, saw action in almost every game.
Details on the “fix” were still filtering into the office as this went to press, but this story began to take form.
The “fixer” made contact with the players through a freshman at the Boarding Hall.
One night at supper a message was delivered to Brooks, who called in Skinner and Baker from their tables.
“Men,” Brooks said, “I have just gotten word that it can be ‘fixed’ that we can get an extra glass of milk for supper.”