Many sports betting scandals involve organized crime in some capacity. In most cases, low-level gangsters or bookmakers with Mob ties convince players to influence the outcome of games. But the Boston College point shaving scandal in 1979 involved one of the heavy hitters of the Mob at the time. While Henry Hill would be best known for inspiring the movie “Goodfellas” he would also have a hand in one of the more shocking sports betting scandals of the 1970s.
Hill worked with Boston College basketball player Rick Kuhn to shave points on Eagles games. Kuhn would be paid a bonus of Boston College won certain games by less points than the oddsmakers predicted. The scheme eventually widened as Kuhn recruited his teammates Jim Sweeney and Ernie Cobb, who was Boston College’s leading scorer.
After early failures at influencing the outcomes of games, the conspirators were able to see substantial successes. According to Hill, he made around $100,000 on the scheme while other Mob partners made up to $250,000; meanwhile, the players earned about $10,000 each for their participation. Court records showed seven games were fixed, although the gamblers only went 4-3 in those seven games.
The scheme lasted for the whole season; it wasn’t until Hill became a government informant in 1980 that he told Federal agents about the point shaving. This lead to a series of arrests and convictions. Kuhn received the harshest punishment – he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a term that was later reduced to 28 months. Cobb was found not guilty of conspiracy charges and Sweeney was never charged, but did testify against Kuhn and four others.