SAN DIEGO -- The University of San Diego's basketball statistics over the five seasons that Brandon Johnson played for the Toreros point to the distinct possibility of point shaving, a gaming expert told Fox 5.
With the announcement Monday of an alleged gambling conspiracy involving the former USD basketball star and nine others, speculation has grown over which games could have been fixed. While it is nearly impossible to pinpoint an exact game where game fixing occurred without more information than federal authorities have released, statistics compiled by Fox 5, yielded results consistent with point shaving according to David Schwartz, the director of gaming research at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
"There are a lot of different ways to fix a game, but basically it all comes down to the same thing, which is the players not playing as well as they could in exchange for being bribed," said David Schwartz, the director of gaming research at UNLV.
A point spread denotes how many points odds makers believe one team will win over another team. For example, if Team X is favored to win by 10 points that means the point spread is 10.
If Team X goes on to win by nine points, while they may have won the game on the scoreboard, they have lost the game against the spread.
The most common way to fix a game is for a player to somehow "shave" points, meaning a player or players will act in a way prevent points being scored by their own team. Because you can control losing much more than you can winning, through missing shots, turning the ball over and playing bad defense, consistently losing against the spread can be a strong indicator of point shaving, according to Schwartz.
Using information found on StatSheet.com, a website that compiles odds information from around the globe, Fox 5 looked at USD's win/loss record against the spread during Brandon Johnson's four full years with the Toreros:
- 2005-2006 season: 16 wins, 11 losses
- 2006-2007 season: 15 wins, 11 losses
- 2007-2008 season: 19 wins, 11 losses
- 2008-2009 season: n/a, Johnson only played in 8 games before rupturing his Achilles tendon.
- 2009-2010 season: 10 wins, 19 losses
The 2009-2010 season is one of the two seasons the FBI alleged games were being fixed. It is the only season in which the Toreros lost against the spread more than they won against it.
Investigators say they have evidence that a game was fixed sometime during the month of February of 2010.
Even though Johnson was not a part of the team the following year, the federal indictment against Johnson and the others states that bets were placed on Feb. 23. 2011, for a game that the gambling ring allegedly "fixed."
The two games immediately following Feb. 23 include a game on Feb 24 against the University of Portland and a game on Feb. 26 against Gonzaga. USD played both games at home.
According to StatSheet.com, USD won against the spread when playing Portland but lost badly against the spread when playing Gonzaga. In that game the Toreros were expected to lose by at least 14 points but went on to lose by 37 points.
The Toreros were just 9-18 against the spread in 2011.
This statistical data is consistent with point shaving but is not hard evidence proving that games were being fixed, Schwartz said.
The NCAA has not indicated of what penalties could be doled out, but precedent suggests there may not be any sanctions at all.
The last three game-fixing scandals Fox 5 found included point-shaving schemes at Arizona State in 1994, Northwestern in 1995 and, most recently, at Toledo University in 2006.
In all three cases, there were no major sanctions against the schools because the NCAA said that the schools had no involvement in the illegal activities.
But complicating matters in the Torero's case is the alleged involvement of Thaddeus Brown, a former assistant coach at San Diego.
"Clearly this takes it to a different level where you've got a coaching staff, who should be the ones trying to guide the student athletes down the right path, but when they're involved with it, clearly this is a situation that was out of control," Schwartz said.
In addition to shaving points, a player or players could also "throw" a game.
Shaving points does not mean a team will necessarily lose whereas "throwing" a game does mean that the player or players involved will intentionally try and lose the game.
Authorities would not specify which of these two scenarios allegedly played out at USD in February of 2010 and 2011.