Hoops’ shady side pops up in game-fixing indictment

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If these truly are the days of college sports misconduct, the latest news fits right in.

Two former San Diego basketball players and a former assistant coach were among 10 people indicted for allegedly fixing games last season, federal authorities revealed Monday.

A federal grand jury handed up indictments on April 8 against former players Brandon Johnson and Brandon Dowdy, as well as ex-assistant coach Thaddeus Brown.

The indictment alleges that Johnson took a bribe to influence the outcome of a Feb. 2010 game and solicited someone else in January 2011 to do the same. Dowdy and Brown allegedly solicited someone to affect the outcome of a California-Riverside game in Feb.

But authorities say the extent of the alleged operation is uncertain or if it affected the outcome of any games. It evolved from an FBI probe into a marijuana distribution operation.

Johnson played for the Toreros from 2005-2010 and is the school’s all-time leader in scoring and assists. Dowdy played for USD during the 2006-07 season and later for Riverside. Brown coached at USD during the 2007-07 season and later at Riverside.

The University of San Diego is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Given that one study concluded roughly 1 percent (at least) of all college basketball games have been involved in gambling-related outcomes, this hardly accounts for every shady game out there. You’ve probably seen a fixed game at some point, but probably didn’t know what to make of it.

And if involves someone like Johnson – who scored 18 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists during San Diego’s 70-69 win over UConn in the 2008 NCAA tournament – fixed games would logically include more players than most would guess.

As this account from former Arizona State star Hedake Smith points out, shaving points is much easier and harder to spot than one might think. A bad pass here, an errant there there. That’s it.

Something to ponder over the summer and into next season.

UPDATE: The NCAA issued a response to the allegations in which president Mark Emmert says “nothing [is] more threatening to the integrity of sports anywhere than the uncovering of a point-shaving scheme.”

The full statement can be found here, but this was of note: 

For the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, agent, gambling and amateurism activities staff travel to Las Vegas for the early-round games. Staff members conduct sports wagering educational sessions in each team’s locker room in conjunction with the open practice day at each regional site. All 32 teams, including all student-athletes and coaches, are required to participate.

Nobody wants a point-shaving scandal in their sport. Count the NCAA as one of ’em.

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