Kentucky Historical Society


Moments in Kentucky
Legislative History

54. Sports Bribery (1952)

Responding to the shocking scandal which engulfed the University of Kentucky basketball program in 1951, the General Assembly on February 13, 1952, passed "an act relating to bribery of participants in professional or amateur games, sports, contests, horse racing and horse shows." The act provided for imprisonment of up to ten years and fines of up to ten thousand dollars for anyone trying to influence athletes "to lose or try to lose or cause to be lost or to limit his team's margin of victory." The act also provided for imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to ten thousand dollars for anyone accepting such a bribe. The General Assembly concluded that, "An emergency is declared to exist and this Act shall take effect upon its passage and approval by the Governor."

Coach Adolph Rupp and four of his Fabulous Five.

Coach Adolph Rupp and four of his "Fabulous Five" appeared on behalf of the March of Dimes Campaign of Frankfort's WFKY radio station, ca. 1949. Standing, left to right: Ralph Beard, Coach Rupp at microphone (he obscures Dale Barnstable), Cliff Barker, Jim Line, Alex Groza, Wallace Jones, and Roger Day. Under Rupp's direction the 1947-48 starting team of Barker, Beard, Groza, Jones, and team captain Kenny Rollins brought UK basketball to a fever pitch, claiming the SEC and NCAA titles, and playing on the world-champion Olympic team in 1948. All but Rollins, who graduated, returned to claim the SEC and NCAA titles again in 1948-49. Glory turned to disgrace, however, when Beard, Groza, and Barnstable admitted they accepted bribe money to shave points in a 1949 NIT game against Loyola. A judge's opinion, delivered in 1952, noted that Rupp had failed "to build character and protect the morals and health of his charges," leaving the players "ripe for plucking by the Fixers." Photograph by Hill, from the Wolff, Gretter, Cusick, Hill Studio Negative Collection, Kentucky Historical Society Collections.

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