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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Grueling Truth's Top 10 Sports Lists / Top 10 Most Scandalous College Basketball Programs of All Time

Top 10 Most Scandalous College Basketball Programs of All Time

Publish Date: 04/21/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Dirtiest Programs

This list of the dirtiest basketball programs could be much longer. The criteria are simple for this list: if you paid players, had academic fraud, shaved points or fixed games, you are eligible for this list. Number one is at the top of the list because their program has had multiple cheating coaches. I know fans of these schools will get mad at this list, but all of these actions are proven true.

10) Minnesota

An academic fraud scandal rocked Minnesota.

On the eve of the 1999 NCAA tournament, a manager at the University of Minnesota’s academic counseling office testified that she had provided over 400 pieces of coursework to basketball players over a five-year span.

Later, it became evident that Head Coach Clem Haskins had paid his manager $3,000 to complete this work. Furthermore, Haskins instructed several players to lie to the NCAA about it.

After losing in the opening round of the 1999 tournament, Haskins was fired and given a seven-year “show cause” order; furthermore, Minnesota was placed under four-year probationary status.

After six seasons of postseason success and losing all games from 1993-94 to 1998-99 seasons, they were finally forced to vacate all postseason accomplishments and give up all future postseason participation.

Video: Wronged Sports Ep. 6: Minnesota Basketball Academic Scandal

Wronged Sports Ep. 6: Minnesota Basketball Academic Scandal

9) Tulane Green Wave

Tulane University was among a select group of schools that endured something unthinkable in 1985 when four players from its basketball team were accused of shaving points during matches in exchange for money and cocaine.

Two players, Clyde Eads and Jon Johnson, were granted immunity to testify against star forward “Hot Rod” Williams.

As soon as Williams was charged, the entire coaching staff and athletic director promptly resigned in protest, leading school president Eamon Kelly to immediately disband basketball as an extracurricular activity.

Three years passed until the team returned.

Williams never faced any charges and went on to play nine seasons in the NBA.

Video: How This NBA Prospect Got Caught Point Shaving...

How This NBA Prospect Got Caught Point Shaving…

8) Arizona State

An acute case of the snowball effect destroyed the 1994 Arizona State team.

Captain Stevin Smith initiated this two-man operation to pay off a gambling debt with a local bookie, but it quickly expanded with Isaac Burton joining. Over time, these games became increasingly bizarre.

The mob was funding the fix, and word quickly spread: in one game against Washington alone, over $1 Million in bets was placed.

Normal bets for such games would have been roughly $50,000. When the point spread shifted from ASU minus-15 to just minus-3, this indicated to many that something fishy had occurred and an illegal fix may have taken place.

Washington would win by 18; thus, most gamblers would lose their money.

Later, Smith would admit to sports bribery charges and spend almost a year behind bars; Burton was only involved with two fixed games and served just two months behind bars.

Federal law enforcement officials determined more money had been bet on these fixed games than on any previous point-shaving scandal in college sports history.

Video: Joe Gagliano full interview about ASU point shaving scandal

Joe Gagliano full interview about ASU point shaving scandal

7) Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern was the last school caught for point shaving during the 20th century. Two players, Dion Lee and Dewey Williams, participated in a scheme to pay back a bookie.

Williams and Lee devised an unconventional plan: instead of trying to beat the spread, they attempted to lose more than they should.

Northwestern officials were appalled by this scandal. Athletic Director Rick Taylor warned that point shaving was a “betrayal of self, teammate, family, coaches, university and the game itself”.

Not to his delight, Northwestern was also implicated in a point-shaving scandal the same year.


UNLV became one of the most controversial basketball programs under Coach Jerry Tarkanian (aka Tark the Shark) of UNLV. However, Tarkanian did a fantastic job building his Rebels program through questionable means.

As Tarkanian continued his UNLV coaching career, things quickly turned south. In 1987, star recruit Lloyd Daniels was caught buying crack cocaine from an undercover policeman.

Daniels was brought to UNLV by Richard Perry, a well-known sports gambler with suspected connections to organized crime.

Four years later, three players from the 1991 championship team were featured in a newspaper article with Perry in a hot tub.

The photograph, taken in 1989, further connected the Rebels with gambling and organized crime, yet there was never any concrete proof. After its release, their athletic director required Tarkanian to resign after their title-defending season had concluded.

Tark the Shark was an exceptional coach, but his association with dubious characters led to his reputation being diminished in spite of all his success.

Video: HBO Sports Documentary: Runnin' Rebels of UNLV - Tark's Towel (HBO)

HBO Sports Documentary: Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV – Tark’s Towel (HBO)

5) Boston College

In 1979, the Boston College Eagles were affected by an outside force that initiated a point-shaving scandal within their team and in Boston itself.

Henry Hill (the inspiration behind the Goodfellas movie) and Richard “The Fixer” Perry were instrumental in helping Boston College players fix as many as nine games.

They would pay the Eagles to lower points but weren’t always successful in doing so.

Perry told USA Today in 2007 that he sent out a message to players: “Tell those Boston kids they can’t play basketball with broken arms.”

Three Boston College players were charged, but only Rick Kuhn was prosecuted and found guilty.

Video: The 1978-1979 Boston College Point Shaving Scandal

The 1978-1979 Boston College Point Shaving Scandal


The 1950 CCNY team became the first in history to win the NIT and NCAA tournament in one calendar year.

One year later, New York DA Frank Hogan charged seven players from their team and some from Bradley (which lost to them in the championship game) with point-shaving.

As the scandal spread, more teams and players became involved. By 1950, 86 games had been determined as fixed, with 32 individuals being involved from 1947 to 1950.

The scandal rocked New York City and forced some historically significant basketball programs (such as CCNY ) out of Division I forever.

Video: The Double Champions- CCNY and the scandal that rocked college hoops

The Double Champions- CCNY and the scandal that rocked college hoops

3) Michigan Wolverines

The legendary Fab Five recruiting class was among the greatest ever to grace college basketball, playing like gods amongst men on the court. Unfortunately, in late 1999, an unprecedented scandal developed within the program.

Ed Martin was discovered to have given over $600,000. To four Michigan team players, including star forward Chris Webber, in order to launder money from an illegal gambling operation.

The aftermath included indictments for Martin and Webber to appear before a grand jury for questioning and several games being forefeited for the Wolverines.

The Wolverines had to vacate all wins from 1993 and 1996-1999 as well as postseason accomplishments like finishing second against North Carolina in the 1993 Final Four.

The Wolverines were placed on probation for four years, distancing themselves from the four players involved until 2012. Their records were deleted in Ann Arbor, while over $450K earned from postseason play was returned.

The Michigan Scandal has been described as one of the most severe violations of NCAA bylaws and will forever stain college basketball as an institution.

With all that cheating, the Wolverines never won a National Championship.

Video: Jalen Rose on Fab Five's Record Erased After Chris Webber Bribery Scandal (Part 7)

Jalen Rose on Fab Five’s Record Erased After Chris Webber Bribery Scandal (Part 7)

2) Baylor Bears

In 2003, Patrick Dennehy went missing for nearly one week before being arrested in Maryland and facing charges.

As soon as the investigation into Dotson had started, allegations surfaced of multiple violations in the Baylor basketball program. Head coach Dave Bliss had paid out of pocket for Dennehy and another teammate’s tuition expenses rather than using scholarship money to do so.

Bliss publicly painted Dennehy as a drug dealer to explain how he could afford his tuition without scholarship support.

Mother of a Teammate allegations surfaced stating that widespread drug use was routinely ignored by Bliss and the coaching staff, with players alleging Bliss had participated in pick-up games with recruit despite violating NCAA policy.

Bliss’ resignation came on August 8, after he admitted making payments totalling $7,000. On tape was him telling coaching staff members to lie about Dennehy to portray him as an illegal drug dealer; furthermore, he was caught lying to investigators as well.

Once the investigation was concluded, Bliss was issued a 10-year show-cause order due to his “despicable behavior” and unethical conduct.

Sorrowfully, Baylor University was exposed to unacceptable behaviors through something as tragic as the killing of one of its young college students; yet in spite of that event’s tragic outcome, it accelerated the process of cleaning out its corrupt system and moving towards a brighter future.



1) Kentucky Wildcats

The Kentucky Wildcats have an equally impressive success record; however, their record contains instances in which specific teams were involved in misconduct or illegal behavior.

Under Adolph Rupp, Kentucky quickly established itself as one of the premier teams in America in 1949 and went on to capture its inaugural NCAA title.

However, they had two suspicious losses to Saint Louis and Loyola that were later investigated and investigated further by authorities. Three players, including two All-Americans (Alex Groza and Ralph Beard), admitted throwing the Loyola game and were banned permanently from playing pro basketball.

Two years later, in 1951, center Bill Spivey was accused of shaving points after coach Rupp boasted: “Gamblers couldn’t touch my boys with a 10-foot pole.”

Spivey denied his guilt before the grand jury and was charged with lying under oath. The NBA banned Spivey from ever playing again, and sportswriters sent Rupp an 11-foot pole following news of this scandal breaking.

Kentucky basketball earned itself the “death penalty,” becoming the first team ever to be banned from play during the 1952-53 season due to several scandals over three years.

Years later, in 1989, head coach Eddie Sutton was again implicated in a scandal related to paying recruits. One of his assistant coaches had given $1,000 directly to Chris Mills’ father; Kentucky was already under probation. Check out our list of the greatest Kentucky Wildcats ever!

The NCAA considered applying a “death penalty.” Still, instead, Eddie Sutton and athletic director Cliff Sutton had to resign while their Wildcats received three years probation with two postseason bans in total.

Rick Pitino and John Calipari were the coaches after Sutton; need I say more?

Video: Wronged Sports Ep. 4 - Kentucky Basketball's 1985 Scandal

Wronged Sports Ep. 4 – Kentucky Basketball’s 1985 Scandal

Honorable mentions

UCLA Bruins John Wooden and Sam Gilbert

For a decade the dirty little secret of college basketball was that a car dealer Sam Gilbert was buying John Wooden the players needed to dominate college basketball. If you want some proof on the Wizard of Westwood check out the John Wooden article on this site.

Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks

Self is untouchable for some reason, that means we don’t know the half of what he did. My guess he would be in the top 5 if we did.

Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats

Sean Miller has went back to his roots at Xavier because he will need to repair his image to get another high profile job.

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