Former USD guard Brandon Johnson.
The idea of players and coaches being involved in a point shaving scandal is unfortunately nothing new when it comes to college athletics, but the allegations against two former University of San Diego basketball players and one former coach is rather unique.
On Wednesday, Michael McKnight of SI.com published his report on the alleged scandal, which contains evidence and anecdotes compiled throughout the course of an eight-month investigation. The complete narrative tells the story of an alleged point shaving scandal that is both fascinating and highly suspect.
At the heart of the report are three key figures: former Toreros guard Brandon Johnson, former guard Brandon Dowdy, and ex-assistant coach T.J. Brown. The three of them are among 10 people who were charged with "conspiracy to commit sports bribery, conduct an illegal gambling business, and distribute marijuana" in April of 2011.
They have each plead not guilty.
Johnson is accused of accepting a bribe to change the outcome of a given game, and both he and Dowdy have been accused of soliciting others to change the outcome of a given game. Brown has been cast as the "bridge" between the players and a small group of local gamblers.
The story goes that Brown allegedly met and developed a relationship with a bookie named Steve Goria at a nightclub where Brown managed the security force. Goria eventually introduced him to a gambler friend, and the two got to talking.
However, this gambler was actually an informant who was working for the FBI because he was looking to reduce a prison sentence. The informant supposedly pushed Brown to put him in touch with USD players so he could merely talk to them about affecting the outcome of a game.
Brown and Dowdy supposedly discussed approaching another USD player about the idea, and the indictment in the case claims that Johnson took it on himself to discuss the idea with that same player, now known to be Ken Rancifer.
Brown and Rancifer met with Goria and a sports bettor named Richard Garmo, but the meeting ended when it became apparent that Garmo didn't think he could rely on Rancifer.
That's the whole story.
SI.com approached a Las Vegas sports betting expert named R.J. Bell and asked him to analyze the games USD played within the time window referenced by the indictment. He found no evidence of any kind of point shaving scandal except for one game against St. Mary's on February 18, 2010. Enough people bet on St. Mary's to make USD even more of an underdog, but St. Mary's still ended up winning and covering.
Johnson, USD's all-time leading scorer, scored 15 points in that game, including nine in the final minutes.
Long story short, the only real evidence the prosecution has that there was a point-shaving scandal at USD is the meeting between Brown, Rancifer, Goria and Garmo, a reality that is not lost on Garmo.
"You're telling an 18-year-old kid to show up to get $5,000. That's how this whole thing started. If that kid doesn't show up to get that money, you and me aren't having this conversation," Garmo told SI.com.
It turns out that this whole thing was kicked off when Goria was arrested in 2008 with over $100,000 cash in his car, and the police determined that he was on his way to make a big marijuana purchase. The ball got rolling when they found out he was fond of sports betting, and things snowballed.
The informant in the case came later, and his credibility is very much in question thanks to his various brushes with the law.
Here's how Brown's attorney characterized the case:
They were investigating a marijuana case, stumbled upon some illegal Internet sports betting, then came across some exaggerated claims of an ability to fix basketball games. The government got over-excited and filed charges without conducting a sufficient investigation.
Because this alleged scandal involves greedy players, a sleazy coach and a cast of sleazy characters who love their gambling, it's really no different from the other point shaving scandals that have come and gone throughout the history of college athletes.
What makes this one different is the reality that there was never any evidence out on the basketball court that the players alleged to be involved had ulterior motives. This will therefore come down to he said-he said, with the accused on one side and a handful of misfits on the other.
Because of that, it's possible that this is one point shaving scandal that will go away as quickly as it came.