Point shaving refers to fixing games, where the players involved try to alter the final score. Point shaving can be done for many reasons, including corrupt officials, coaches and players. However, they all do it to make sure their wagers are successful.

To make sure that the spread is in their favor, the first reason someone might shave points. Spread is the point value that sportsbooks predict will be the margin to victory. Another reason is to manipulate over-under. The over-under refers to the total points that a book predicts in a particular game.

Point Shaving in Sports Leagues: History

Here’s a list of some of the most famous point-shaving scandals that have occurred in sports history.

Arizona State Basketball

The 1994 Arizona State basketball team was caught slashing points in four games. Players involved in the fix believed that it would only affect one game and that they would be able to save enough money to pay college tuition. Some players spent the money quickly and decided that they weren’t done.

The stakes escalated and eventually the authorities and casinos caught on. Potential NBA careers were cut short and arrested before they could even begin.

Toledo Football

The 2005 Toledo football team was arrested for point-shaving. Many believed that Toledo’s small size meant that they could fix games without being noticed. Sports books discovered that Toledo was being bet heavily on by a lot of money. They knew there was something wrong.

When FBI agents entered the president of Toledo’s office to inform them about their suspensions, and then present evidence to him, he was completely taken by surprise.

Tulane Basketball

1985 saw the Tulane basketball point-shaving scandal. The scandal would have a lasting impact on Tulane’s basketball program, which they are still trying to recover from. John “Hot Rod”, the school’s top player, was arrested and taken to prison for his involvement in the fix.

The point-shaving plan was made possible by a team member purchasing cocaine. Williams managed to get to the NBA despite his involvement in the scheme. He also had a 13-year successful career. Williams was also named to 1986-1987 NBA All-Rookie Team.

UNLV Basket

Although UNLV’s basketball team was not found guilty of shaving their points, there was much speculation that they were involved after three of the most prominent players were photographed with Ritchie Perry, a notorious point shaver.

Perry was found guilty in both 1973 and 1984 of fixing games. His manipulation of the point spread almost led to Perry being banned from all casinos. Despite UNLV players being photographed with “The Fixer”, neither the NCAA nor FBI found any evidence that UNLV was involved.

Hypothetical ways point shaving can occur in football

Let’s look at some possible ways that point shaving could occur in football.

Conservative Play Calling-(coach driven)

Play calling is the first way point shaving in football can happen. If the coach is involved, they can call an aggressive game in order to increase the score and cover the spread.

They can also call the game conservatively if the goal is to keep the game close, or to hit the under-point spread.

Out of bounds

If players run out of space, rather than scoring touchdowns, this is another way point-shaving might happen in football. This is a common tactic in the NFL. However, it doesn’t allow the opposing team the ball back at the conclusion of a close match.

This strategy can also be used for other reasons. Players who are stealing points against their team can make it difficult for their team to score.

Turnovers

Players have also used this method to reduce points. This is a simple way to save points and not be noticed. We have seen football players throw multiple interceptions, making poor passes and fumbling the ball multiple time in one game.

Refs

Poor officiating is the last major way points could be hypothetically shaved. Poor officiating could lead to point-shaving in this scenario.

Although there have not been any cases in recent years of this happening in NFL, an NBA referee was caught manipulating games to ensure certain point spread betting would hit.

Why can’t the NFL gamblers?

Although NFL players may gamble on other sports, they cannot gamble on NFL games. This rule was put in place to prevent a group of players from conspiring to fix league games and receive millions in rewards.

Although the athletes are multimillionaires already, anyone who has an opportunity to make more will grab it. This problem can be circumvented by rules that prohibit NFL players from betting on NFL games.

What makes point shaving illegal in the NFL?

The NFL bans point shaving so that players can’t rig games or compromise the integrity of the league.

How many football players were caught gambling?

The NFL has done a better job than other sports at keeping its players from gambling, but it is difficult to eliminate the problem completely from any league. Only five NFL players have been caught with their hands in gambling over the years.

Those players being Alex Karras in 1963, Paul Hornung in 1963, Art Schlichter in 1983, Josh Shaw in 2019, and Calvin Ridley in 2021.

Summary

Point shaving, in short, is the act or practice of manipulating the score to win a wager. Multiple college players have been caught trying to shave point. There are many ways players, coaches, referees, and teams can shave point. Because it could compromise the integrity of the league, NFL players can’t gamble on NFL games. Five players were caught shaving their heads.

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