The State Bureau of Investigation has launched a formal probe into charges of gambling and point shaving involving the N.C. State University basketball program, allegations that could cost the school nearly $1 million if substantiated.
But an ongoing investigation by New Jersey authorities into a Denville, N.J., gambler's links to those allegations has turned up no hard evidence of point-shaving at N.C. State, according to officials heading that probe.They do say, however, that their investigation will connect the gambler, contractor Robert D. Kramer III, money and N.C. State's 1987-88 basketball season.
``You'll be surprised at the direction,' Denville police chief Howard C. Shaw said Thursday.
Wake County's district attorney, C. Colon Willoughby, asked the SBI Thursday to open a formal investigation into allegations that Charles Shackleford and three other N.C. State players accepted money to shave points during the 1987-88 season. The request followed a preliminary inquiry, he said.
``Evidence gathered during the inquiry led me to believe that a criminal investigation was appropriate,' Willoughby said.
Meanwhile, Sports Channel America, a cable station, reported that N.C. State coach Jim Valvano had resigned during a Thursday night broadcast of the Nevada-Las Vegas-Utah State basketball game. The station later retracted it. ESPN also broadcast that unsubstantiated report.
The criminal investigations are the first to deal with point-shaving in North Carolina since a scandal rocked college basketball in the state in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Shackleford has not admitted to shaving points. But he has confirmed that he received $65,000 from Kramer and sports agent Larry Gillman during his sophomore and junior years at State.
Gillman is a former East Carolina basketball coach now listed as an agent with the National Basketball Association's Players Association. Gillman was the first agent for Chris Washburn, one of Shackleford's teammates at N.C. State.f
Kramer, a Washington, N.C., native who describes himself as a longtime Wolfpack fan, has admitted giving Shackleford between $5-6,000 during his junior year and an additional $14,000 after he left N.C. State. Kramer has characterized the money as a loan to help the Wolfpack player to stay in school and resist pressure from a sports agent.
He said each payment was documented and Shackleford has repaid all the money with interest.
Efforts to reach Gillman have been unsuccessful.
A report aired on ABC News Wednesday night charged that Kramer was the mastermind in a point-shaving scheme. Kramer was alleged to have paid the four Wolfpack players $1,000 per game, using Shackleford as the go-between, to throw as many as four contests during the 1987-88 season. Kramer was portrayed in the report as a heavy gambler who once made more than 330 calls in a single month to bookmakers and sports update lines.
An unidentified former N.C. State player also told ABC reporter Arman Keteyian that he shaved points that year. A man who claimed to be a former business associate of Kramer said Kramer came to him with ``inside information' about the March 6, 1988, game between Wake Forest and N.C. State. The businessman, a former Raleigh car dealer identified as Angelo Carvana, said that Kramer told him the game was ``under control.'
In point shaving, players on a favored team purposely reduce their own scoring or allow the other team to score, so that the margin of their victory is more narrow than expected. Gamblers make money when they correctly bet a game will be closer than oddsmakers predict.
Kramer's attorney tried to discredit the ABC report Thursday by saying that Kramer barely knew the man identified in the report as his business associate. In the statement released to the media Thursday night, the man was identified as Angelo Corvalo.
``Mr. Kramer was never a business associate of Mr. Corvalo, and in fact, met him no more than two times and possibly only one time,' attorney Gerard Hanlon said.
``At no time did Mr. Kramer comment to Mr. Corvalo, a person he did not know and has never met since, that the Wake Forest game was under control.'
The money that Shackleford has admitted receiving from Kramer, in all probability, would have rendered him ineligible to compete for the Wolfpack under rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
According to David Berst, the NCAA's assistant director for enforcement, N.C. State would not face sanctions such as probation, but the Wolfpack may have to repay revenue earned in the NCAA basketball tournament during those years. That sum could total nearly $1 million.
N.C. State earned nearly $450,000 in the 1987 and '88 NCAA tournaments. The Wolfpack lost in the first round each of those seasons. However, in 1986, when Shackleford was as freshman, N.C. State reached the regional semifinals and the NCAA payoff was $535,780.
N.C. State counsel, Becky French, said that meetings Wednesday with Shackleford's agent, Salvatore DiFazio, convinced her that payments were accepted during his sophomore and junior years.
``The freshman year is still in question,' French said.
Berst said he expected the matter to be addressed by the NCAA's executive council when it meets next in May.
The twin investigations are another black eye for the N.C. State program, already on a two-year NCAA probation for rules violations including basketball players who profited from the sale of school-issued playing shoes and complimentary tickets. The Wolfpack also will not be eligible to play in this year's NCAA tournament.
The furor also cast another cloud over the career of N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, but school officials say they have not discussed the possibility of resignation with him.
``Certainly, if any circumstances are suggested that it is inappropriate for the coach to continue, I would take action,' said Larry Monteith, the school's interim chancellor. ``But obviously, I don't have the circumstances at the moment to ask him to step down.'
Harold Hopfenberg, N.C. State's interim athletic director, said he asked Valvano point-blank if he had any inkling of point shaving or improper payments to Shackleford. The coach said no, according to Hopfenberg.
Valvano did not return with the N.C. State team following Wednesday night's 96-95 loss to Maryland in College Park. Mark Bockelman, the N.C. State sports information director, said, ``I understand he's in New York.'
Valvano's New York-based agent, Art Kaminsky, was referring his calls Thursday to an associate, Pat Gibbons.
``They have been in contact,' Gibbons said. ``Art expects to have no further comment from our office or Jim at this point.'
Peter Golenbock, author of a book about N.C. State basketball that started the probe that led to the NCAA probation last year, said he believes Valvano knew of the irregularities on his team.
``Coaches always have a very close ear to what is going on (with their team),' Golenbock said in a televised interview.
N.C. State players reacted universally with surprise to the point-shaving accusations. But one, Kelsey Weems, said Wednesday that he had been aware his roommate, Shackleford, was receiving money during his junior year.
Weems said Shackleford used to tell him that he was going to pick up money at Western Union. ``But I never had any idea he was getting that much money,' said Weems, who now plays for the Quad City Thunder of the Continental Basketball Association.
According to Weems, Shackleford never told him where the money came from but that he ``just kind of guessed it. I was pretty sure his family didn't send it to him,' Weems said.
However, when contacted Thursday by telephone in his hotel room in La Crosse, Wis., Weems would neither confirm nor deny his earlier statements. ``I am referring everything to my lawyer and agent, Sal DiFazio,' Weems said. DiFazio, who also is Shackleford's agent, on Thursday did not return phone calls.
Rodney Monroe, who played with Shackleford as a freshman, called his former teammate ``a mystery man. No one knew him real well.' He said he never suspected Shackleford of having an unusual sum of money.
Vinny Del Negro, now with the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association agreed. ``It wasn't like he (Shackleford) was flashing money around,' he said.
Senior Brian Howard played with Shackleford for two seasons and admitted that his teammate could be ``inconsistent.' But he said he knew nothing of point shaving.
``When he (Shackleford) played, he played,' said Howard, a Winston-Salem native. ``It's hard to say. I just hate to think that would happen.'
The owner of the company that published Golenbock's book, Carrol & Graf of New York, approached news organizations late last year with information suggesting the recently alleged N.C. State irregularities, The News & Observer of Raleigh said in a Thursday article.
The owner, Kent Carrol, said the company was paying Carvana and a state employee, Jamie Fountain, of Cary for their help and information in the matter. Carol & Graf is publishing a paperback version of Golenbock's ``Personal Fouls' that will include the new allegations.
Fountain, an employee in the Department of Transportation's right-of-way office, declined comment Thursday.
William Dowdy, the SBI's chief investigator, said Thursday that he thought the probe could be a lengthy one.
``I'm afraid it might take a considerable amount of time due to the fact that some people are apparently not going to be cooperative,' Dowdy said.
He would identify who those persons are.
Dowdy would not identify the players that might be under investigation or the games involved.
He also denied a report in Wednesday's News & Record that SBI agents are investigating the possibility that points were shaved during N.C. State's game with Tampa during the 1886-87 season.