It seems news of any college sports scandal brings to mind North Carolina's Dixie Classic basketball tournament.
Ron Morris, a reporter for The State in Columbia SC, described a meeting in 1961 between UNC system president William Friday and Wake County's district solicitor Lester Chalmers.
Chalmers informed Friday of evidence he found that implicated at least four N.C. State players and possibly two UNC players in the fixing of games, including at least one played in the Dixie Classic basketball tournament the previous December.
Game-fixing, or point-shaving, involved gamblers who paid players to alter the point spread in games. Most times, a bribed player did not help determine a game's winner or loser. Rather, the player helped his team win or lose by a certain number of points. For instance, a player could easily let the man he was guarding score late in a game to ensure his team lost by more than, say, five points. Thus, the term point-shaving.
What struck Friday, and stays with him today, was Chalmers' description that a player's life had been threatened by gamblers. A gun was stuck in the belly of an N.C. State player after the outcome of one game was not to the gambler's liking, according to Friday.
"In our minds, we were dealing with protection of human life of an innocent college kid that, because he had exceptional skills, had gotten all his fame, " Friday said last week. "Forces were preying upon these young men that were bigger than they could handle.
"You believe that threat to be real. That's what the difference was. I really did believe these [gamblers] would hurt these kids. That being said, you weren't left with any alternative."
Led by Friday's charge, the UNC system imposed numerous sanctions on both the North Carolina and N.C. State basketball programs and abolished the Dixie Classic, a popular tournament that ran for 12 Decembers before packed houses at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.
The Dixie Classic was the brainchild of N.C. State coach Everett Case, who pitted the Big Four schools against four of the nation's top-caliber teams for the three-day event. The '58 event featured four top 10 teams, including No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Cincinnati led by All-American Oscar Robertson.
"It's like the State Fair, it's part of the people, " former Wake Forest coach Bones McKinney once said.
In addition to canceling the Dixie Classic, the consolidated university presidents also reduced the schedules for UNC and N.C. State for the 1962 season to include 14 regular-season conference games and only two games outside the league instead of nine. Players at both schools were prohibited from participating in summer basketball leagues, and only two freshmen in the next recruiting class were allowed from outside the ACC area.
None of those restrictions had the impact of canceling the Dixie Classic, at least to fans of college basketball in North Carolina. Even the state's agriculture director, Jim Graham, voiced his displeasure to Friday about the decision.
But Friday's belief at the time was the Dixie Classic represented how college athletics was fast distancing itself from the university campus.
Friday regularly attended the Dixie Classic. Upon hearing that tickets for the annual event were being written into the wills of patrons, Friday had serious questions about the magnitude of the Classic.
"There was no Final Four in those days, " Friday says now. "It was our Final Four in national attraction. There was just enormous pressure on the thing from top to bottom." -- The N&O 3/24/2010
Basketball fans weren't alone in mourning the loss of the tournament. A protest by Raleigh merchants was organized. Wesley Williams, executive secretary of the Raleigh Merchants' Bureau and James Little, president of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce spoke to N&O reporter David Cooper about the impact of the tournament on the city.
Williams said that "there must be more effective ways to get to the root of the problem," than abolishing the Classic, which, merchants admitted is a golden egg.
The Classic had been an extra boon for merchants and businessmen because it came each year in the slack period right after the Christmas rush.
From 10,000 to 12,000 Tar Heel basketball fans attend the games daily.
Both Williams and Little said the Classic, held ... on the State College campus, meant a business boom for hotels, motels, restaurants, service stations and a host of other businesses.
"Sure, it means a great deal to all the hotels, motels and restaurants," said Arthur Buddenhagen, manager of the Sir Walter Hotel, when asked about the Classic shutdown.
"There are a lot of people who come to Raleigh for a three day period," he said, allowing that the Classic normally fills up the Sir Walter. Buddenhagen added, however, that he personally agrees with the action taken by the University leaders.
"Ooow!" said one motel owner, who asked not to be identified. "It'll knock all the motels in Raleigh out of (at) least $50,000 worth of business a year. And all them 12,000 folks got to eat somewhere!"
"It means plenty," said Red Balentine, one of Raleigh's largest restaurant operators. "We hate to see it happen; it brings an awful lot of folks to Raleigh."
Balentine said figures in his office showed that his two restaurants alone ran $500 to $700 a day above normal sales during the three-day Classic.
The transportation industry will feel the loss too, said Irvin E. Doggett, president of Yellow Cab Co. "Anything hurts the cab business when it comes to crowds," he said. "I hate to see it go myself." -- The N&O 5/23/1961
In happier days
Big Four basketball coaches pull their Dixie Classic opponents from the hat of tournament director Roy Clogston at Reynolds Coliseum in 1957. Left to right: Harold Bradley, Duke; Frank McGuire, North Carolina; Roy Clogston; Everette Case, NC State; and Murray Greason, Wake Forest assistant athletic director.
N&O Staff Photo by Lawrence Wofford