This site uses cookies, tokens, and other third party scripts to recognize visitors of our sites and services, remember your settings and privacy choices, and — depending on your settings and privacy choices — enable us and some key partners to collect information about you so that we can improve our services and deliver relevant ads.

By continuing to use our site or clicking Accept, you agree that CBS and our key partners may collect data and use cookies for personalized ads and other purposes, as described more fully in our privacy policy. You can change your settings at any time by clicking Manage Settings.

No ad available

How to fix a college football game and influence its outcome -- in four steps

Michael Franzese knows a fixed game when he sees one.

"I usually do [recognize it], yes," the former New York mobster said. "Especially garbage points."

Remember that the next time you see a late, seemingly meaningless touchdown or a field goal that winds up covering the point spread or affecting the over/under.

Also, remember that as we enter this new age of legalized sports gambling in college athletics. Franzese is one of the few educated voices who can lead us through this wilderness.

As a powerful mafia boss with the Colombo crime family, he reportedly pulled in as much as $8 million per week from his business dealings.

Oh yeah, and he fixed games.

Franzese is long since reformed as one of the few bosses at his level to renounce the mob and live. He has built a speaking business, writes books, produces movies and continues to talk candidly about his past.

No ad available

That's why CBS Sports sought out the 67-year-old for a story about the "integrity" of the game. He wound up describing for us how one could go about fixing a college football game.

That prospect might be the No. 1 fear of college administrators as we enter the new era of legal sports gambling.

Whether above-board sports betting will increase the likelihood of fixing has yet to be answered. The only known is that it is still out there.

"I would say this," Franzese said, "It's an extension of their [players'] competitive spirit. They like to compete, and gambling is a way of competing."

No ad available

He added: "The mentality of these kids today, they're more apt to do it than in my day."

Why?

"They're more willing to take a chance. They're less likely to follow rules."

What follows is a detailed description of how to fix a game, via Franzese. Remember, it's not so much about determining the outcome; it's about affecting the point spread.

1. Start with an athlete who gets "upside down" -- loses a lot of money with a bookie. Instead of a street bookie strong-arming the player, he would let him continue betting -- and losing -- more. "We used to purposefully put [that sort of bettor] in the situation that you wanted," Franzese explained.

2. Present a way for them to get even: Shave points. If the spread is 10, the mark might be instructed get the final margin to two touchdowns. If it is 13, a couple of timely turnovers might push the final margin to 20. "If you don't do this a couple of times, then don't worry," Franzese told his marks on many occasions, "you don't have to call me anymore. I'll find you."

No ad available

He added: "If you got a senior who is really not going anywhere [as a professional] and who needs the money, you get close to him and get friendly with him. You can put it in his head that, 'Hey, by the way, would you like to have 50, 60, 70 grand put away?

"With football, it's got to be somebody significant. It's got to be a running back, it's got to be a linebacker, it's got to be a quarterback. You tell the quarterback, 'Listen, the first three times you get the ball, put it in the hands of the other player.' Tell a running back the same thing. 'If you get your hands on the ball twice, you drop it.' It's stuff like that that can turn the game around and really impact the spread.

"It doesn't work every time because there are certain things in a game you can't control. But like I said, 'If you have control of a player over a period of time, it will work.'"

3. Attempt to get in the pocket of the referees officiating the game. The prospect of officials being compromised chills the blood of college administrators. College officials are contract workers who have other full-time jobs and are paid by the game. In college football, that number can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per contest.

No ad available

"If you take a referee, whether it is football or basketball, referees are very susceptible because they can have a tremendous impact on the spread," Franzese said. "It's Christmas time and the guy needs a few extra bucks. He goes to his trusted friend or his cousin and says, 'Listen, put this bet this way for me.' They can call a foul not call a foul, call a penalty not call a penalty.

"You can move the spread so easily. So to think that it doesn't happen, I've spoken to a number of referees. I've had them complain, 'You've got to get the league more on top of this. There is stuff going on there that we don't like.'"

Only the sloppy get caught, it seems. The last college football betting scandal dates back to 2005. A small number of Toledo players were involved in a bribery scheme. One player was alleged to have been paid $100 to fumble. The definition of sloppy: For two seasons, Las Vegas gaming officials had questions about the amount of money wagered on Toledo games.  In the end, three former Toledo players were sentenced to probation in 2015.

4. Be smart with your bets. The point spread can be affected by many factors -- weather and injuries among them. But when the spread moves because a large amount of money is wagered, that gets the attention of the FBI. The bets Franzese is talking about wouldn't rise to that level. There would be enough small bets spread around to various sports books. There would be no spike in betting to notice. 

No ad available

"It's not hard if you have a significant player over the course of a season or a couple of a games," he said. "You like to get somebody that you have in your pocket, that you have something on who can definitely have a bearing on the game. Over the course of the season, it's tough because people get rattled, things change. If you can get a guy for a couple of games, you're doing OK."

There are reasons why there haven't been a lot of college football betting scandals. Yes, college basketball games are much easier to influence. But also ... we don't know what we don't know. Nefarious influencers don't post when they are going to fix a game.

"If someone is going to fix a game, they're not going to do it through legal channels," said gaming analyst Todd Fuhrman of SportsLine, a CBS Sports brand. "At Toledo, it's one rogue individual [making the bets]. It would be damn near impossible with that kind of money through legal channels to make it financially viable for those perpetrators [to fix games]."

Another man who has been closer to it than most agrees.

"The only time something happens is when somebody gets in trouble," Franzese said. "[That's] when somebody talks. A player gets stupid."

No ad available
Our Latest Stories
No ad available