Back in March, former San Diego Torero Brandon Johnson, the school’s all-time leader in points and assists, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for his role in a point-shaving scheme during the 2009-2010 season back in March.
Johnson was lucky; the state wanted to give him a year. He’ll begin serving his sentence on May 31st.
This isn’t a new story. The scandal broke back in the spring of 2011, and Johnson’s name has been in and out of the headlines since then. But over the weekend, the FBI released a story about the investigation that offered up a couple of new details into the crime.
The most interesting nugget in the FBI’s report is that the investigation initially had nothing to do with San Diego basketball or point-shaving. Instead, investigators were looking into a group that was selling weed and running an illegal online casino. It wasn’t until they started doing some digging that they stumbled upon Johnson’s association with the group and their game-fixing.
It was a profitable venture for both sides:
During the 2009-2010 season, [former USD assistant coach Thaddeus Brown] recruited Johnson — USD’s starting point guard — to influence the outcome of basketball games in exchange for money. Brown was paid handsomely for his role in the conspiracy—up to $10,000 per game.
During that season, it’s believed that at least four games were “fixed” with Johnson’s assistance. Perhaps the senior point guard would miss a free throw now and then or draw a technical foul. Or he would just pass up a shot—at one point Johnson was heard on electronic surveillance talking about how he wouldn’t shoot at the end of a particular game because it would have cost him $1,000.
The co-conspirators routinely got together to discuss the predictions of oddsmakers and to pick which games to fix. They would then make their bets—often on the other team (USD was usually favored to win)—which would enhance their winnings even more. And with Johnson manipulating the games, they usually won their bets, netting them more than $120,000.
The amount of money that Johnson got paid is one of the reasons that I believe this was not an isolated incident.
For any college kid, $1,000 is a lot of money, let alone someone that doesn’t come from a financially stable back ground. Now imagine that a college basketball player on a low-major team — a program that doesn’t get much media attention — from a poor family is offered that much money to shave a couple of points. He’s not throwing the game, he’s just making a bad pass or missing a shot intentionally here and there to ensure that his team doesn’t cover the spread.
That money can stock your fridge and let you buy a round of shots at a campus bar while also helping to make sure your parents aren’t late on a car payment or rent — and it doesn’t cost your team a win.
Not the easiest thing to say no to, is it?
And with the number of Division I basketball teams creeping ever so close to 350, and with each of those teams playing more than 30 games a season, there are more than 10,000 college basketball games a year.
How many do you think are fixed?
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.