'52 Terps tempted by bookies, too


There's little correlation between Jack Scarbath, the University of Maryland's most famous football player, and Scott Milanovich, who has been the focus of a gambling investigation, except that both were talented, played the same position, quarterback, and could make a forward pass look as if it had been delivered via laser beam.

Milanovich has been told he is going to lose eight games of his senior season at Maryland for having violated NCAA regulations by betting on college football and basketball games. He allegedly made the wagers with a bookmaker (not a publisher) and, therein, is believed to be a source of much of his difficulty.

If the NCAA didn't have the power within its structure to come down on gambling among athletes you can only imagine what might happen. Every campus would have bookies battling with each other to take the action and maybe even attempt to ingratiate themselves with the varsity members for future considerations. At a price.

From a historical aspect, worthy of note, even four decades later, is that Maryland once before had an involvement with gambling that evolved into a major story. It was 1952, when Scarbath and Maryland were considered no worse than the second best college football team in the nation after winning 18 straight games.

Upcoming was LSU, a perennial Southeastern Conference power, when the FBI was told what had transpired in an attempted betting arrangement. Scarbath, the standout quarterback with a cannon for an arm, was headed for unanimous All-American selection, runner-up in the Heisman Trophy (the highest finish for any Maryland player in history) and a first-round draft choice of the Washington Redskins.

Scarbath, center Tom Cosgrove and guard Frank Navarro reported to head coach Jim Tatum that a bribe offer had been made by a fellow student to get them to influence the point-spread against LSU. The report became a startling page one development in newspapers across the nation.

Tatum asked Scarbath why he didn't kill the would-be briber? "I was afraid I'd get in trouble for fighting, Coach," was the naive way Scarbath answered. Cosgrove, according to testimony, had been offered $1,000, Navarro $400 and Scarbath somewhere around $100. Why wasn't Scarbath, instead of Cosgrove, going to be the recipient of top-dollar from the payoff man?

The coach quickly pointed out the center, at critical junctures in the game, could snap the ball on either a premature or delayed count, upsetting the team's entire rhythm and causing offsides or backfield-in-motion penalties. Such a muddle could be explained by saying there was a misunderstanding on the part of the quarterback, Scarbath, and the center, Cosgrove.

But the three Maryland players would have no part in such illegal goings-on. Scarbath passed for three touchdowns as his team covered the 21-point spread and routed LSU, 34-6, in the game where tampering with the score was suggested to them. The man who made the payoff overture was identified as Lou Glickfield, who earlier that year had tried out for the Maryland team.

The players remember, after the trial, that the district attorney told them Glickfield, with personal access to Cosgrove, Navarro and Scarbath from having been a candidate during the preseason, was representing a bookie in this aborted attempt to extend a chance to make "easy money" by helping fix the point-differential -- not necessarily for Maryland to lose.

The FBI was involved and the night before the LSU contest instructed Scarbath to try to arrange a payoff meeting while the Maryland team attended a movie. "We always got on a chartered bus to go to a movie the night before our games," remembers Scarbath. "Then we'd go back to school and they'd give us an apple to eat, yes, always an apple, and send us off to bed. Later our rooms would be checked to make sure we weren't going out anywhere."

Scarbath says that evening in the theater the FBI had its agents dressed as ticket takers, ushers and salesmen at the candy counters, hoping to nab the suspect in the act of turning over the money, but Glickfield didn't show up for any such encounter. He later was placed on trial and received an 18-month sentence.

It's not easy to step up in the fashion of the three Maryland players and inform school authorities on what had been proposed. They then become a part of the entire investigation to ascertain the charges and follow-through as witnesses. "But I knew the bribe try was wrong," says Scarbath. "There was no doubt in my mind or with Tom or Frank."

Scarbath went on to become head of his own manufacturing business; Cosgrove a senior pilot for United Airlines and Navarro the head coach of football at Williams College, Columbia and Princeton. It's something they have rarely talked about, preferring to leave the bygones in the court records.

Asked about the Milanovich case, Scarbath, compassionate by nature, said, "I'm not privy to the extent of his involvement. But it seems a stern penalty, losing his eligibility for eight games, for what has been described as betting $200 over a three-year period. A few athletes at other colleges have been involved in making sports bets and, although disciplined, didn't face this kind of a suspension. Again, I don't have the particulars."

So Scarbath isn't about to come down, as judge and jury, on either Milanovich, the university or the NCAA.

He views the entire difficulty as regrettable, especially since whatever happened has the chance of resulting in a serious reflection on his beloved alma mater -- and few alumni hold the respect and appreciation for their former school with as much regard as Scarbath displays for Maryland.

He was to later be appointed a member of its Board of Regents, became a major fund-raiser for the university and is eternally grateful for the educational and athletic opportunities he was provided.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad