On This Date in Sports November 23, 1981: Not So Goodfellas
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Five former Boston College basketball players are found guilty of racketeering and bribery charges for shaving points to fix games during the 1978/79 season. The guilty verdict comes after a four-week trial in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. The players were paid by members of the mob setup through Henry Hill and his connections in Pittsburgh. When Hill was arrested in 1980, he decided to testify against his associates, and the players at Boston College were among those who went to prison. Hill's life would later be portrayed in the movie "Goodfellas." Rick Kuhn would serve 28 months in prison after an initial ten-year sentence.
Boston College was a program on the rise with coach Tom Davis leading the way. The Eagles had a solid team led by Jim Sweeney and Rick Kuhn. The Eagles, who were on season away from being a part of the Big East Conference, posted a record of 22-9. The Eagles were a solid independent and favored to win on most nights.
Rick Kuhn, a senior forward from Western Pennsylvania, had been a high school friend of Rocco Perla, who, along with his brother Anthony were associates of Henry Hill, who was with the Lucchesi Crime Family in New York. Hill and his connections in Pittsburgh had created one of the most extensive drug trafficking operations on the East Coast. Kuhn and the Perla Brothers schemed to shaver points so that Boston College would win the game but fail to cover the point spread. With Henry Hill's money, Kuhn recruited other players to conspire to keep games close. Kuhn was paid $2,500 and allowed to bet the money and double their money.
Rick Kuhn recruited Jim Sweeney as the Eagles were on the way to posting a record of 22-9. Nobody batted an eye, as the Eagles failed to cover the spread in eight different games, and this included an 83-64 loss to Providence on December 6, 1978. Ernie Cobb had rejected Kuhn's offer to throw the game but relented after being threatened by members of the mob, as Jimmy Burke was banking the scheme. Boston College also lost to Holy Cross 98-96 on February 10, 1979, as the Lucchesi family became enriched as the point-shaving operation was successful, netting over $100,000.
Kuhn graduated, and Jim Sweeney became a star the following season. He had been nominated as a Rhodes Scholar. The Eagles posted a record of 19-10 in the first season of the Big East Conference. Meanwhile, the walls were caving in on Henry Hill, who had also helped orchestrate the Lufthansa Heist with Jimmy Burke. When Hill was arrested for drug trafficking, he became concerned that he would be killed for breaking the Lucchesi Family rule that forbids members from getting involved in the drug trade. Hill rolled over on Burke in the Lufthansa heist. While being questioned about his frequent trips to Boston, Henry Hill spilled the beans on Boston College's point-shaving scheme.
After an investigation, Jim Sweeney agreed to testify against Rick Kuhn, leading to his conviction. Rick Kuhn was initially sentenced to ten years in Federal Prison but served 28 months after getting his sentence reduced. The Perla brothers also served time in prison, with Jimmy Burke receiving a 12-year sentence.