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Big Blue Blues: Shocked Cats Quit Their Point-Shaving

The Cats had finally had enough.

University of Kentucky Wildcats... Photo by Kentucky/Collegiate Images via Getty Images

(This story is one of six serialized highlights from the Ken Mink book “Big Blue Blues: The Inside Story of Kentucky’s Involvement in the Point-Shaving Scandal of the 1940s-50s.” The complete book is on sale on the Internet through Amazon Books, Smashwords Books and Barnes and Noble. Mink is a former Herald-Leader sportswriter who spent many hours with the late UK basketball Coach Adolph Rupp and other coaches and journalists researching data for the book. He is a native of Vicco, near Hazard, in Perry County.)

Chapter 5: Shocked Cats Quit Their Point-Shaving

The point-shaving trio of Wildcats were each $2,000 richer but upset and sorry, and they all agreed to not deal with Curd and Englisis any further. Their point-shaving days were over, they vowed.

A sportswriter asked Rupp if he thought his team would beat Loyola if they were to play again.

“Fellas, I don’t believe in the what-if this or what-if that, conjecture. The famous British writer William Hazlitt once said, ‘You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world.’ Well, we know a lot more about the road we went down today. Unfortunately, we found out it was a dead-end. Well, I never worry about tomorrow. The world will not come to an end today because it’s already tomorrow in Australia.”

Before making their return trip to New York to take part in the NCAA Tournament, Beard and Groza found Curd and Englisis knocking on their dorm room door.

Groza answered, and Curd and Englisis pushed their way in.

“Sorry to see you boys lose like that in the NIT. But sometimes things just get out of hand,” said Curd.

Beard rolled off his bed and angrily grabbed Curd by his shirt collar.

“But I’ll bet it did not make your New York buddies unhappy,” said Beard, sarcastically. “Looks like you guys won your bets without us having anything to do with it. You didn’t get your money’s worth from us, now did you.”

Curd knocked Beard’s hands away and Groza grabbed Beard and calmed him down.

The Wildcat players kicked Curd and Englisis out, but a few days later the gamblers showed up again with a more lucrative offer.

Beard slammed the door in Curd’s face, but he managed to get his foot in the door.

“Don’t get excited, boys, I’m just here to talk business,” said Curd.

“We got no more business with you rats,” said Beard. “Get the hell out.”

“Now just a minute, will ya,” said Curd. “I am here to give you the offer of a lifetime. We are prepared to give you three $10,000 each to help control the score in two of your NCAA games.”

“I wouldn’t do that again for a f-f-fucking million dollars,” said Beard.

“Me neither,” said Groza, “and I think that goes for Barney, too. You guys are not going to mess up our lives anymore. If we had it to do over we never would have taken a dime from you bums.”

“Don’t be stupid, fellas, you’ll never get an offer like this again,” said Englisis.

Beard started pushing Curd toward the door, but Curd pulled out a pistol and started waving it around.

Beard had grown up in a tough Louisville neighborhood and was no stranger at defending himself. He caught Curd with a right cross to the jaw, knocking the burly gambler to the floor. He was out cold, the pistol lying by his side.

Englisis picked up Curd and the gun and carried him to their car.

“That felt good,” said Beard. “Yeah . . . too bad we didn’t do that last year,” said Groza.

After the Loyola debacle, an angry and puzzled Rupp came back to Lexington and ran the Wildcats through a tough physical week of practice to get ready for the NCAA tournament.

“I was so damn mad I just couldn’t contain myself,” said Rupp. “I put those boys through hellacious, bloodthirsty practices. We practiced like the Dickens, I’m telling you.” Rupp knew nothing about his players involvement with gamblers, but he knew something was bothering his team. He had a meeting with Athletic Director Bernie Shively in Rupp’s office, sharing a fifth of bourbon.

“I don’t know, Bernie, but Lordy there’s something wrong with this team. Because if we lose two in a row they will be hanging me in effigy in downtown Lexington.”

Little did he know his team would never lose another game that season. The Cats knocked off Villanova 85-72 and No. 4 Illinois 75-47 in New York City before flying to Seattle and beating No. 2 Oklahoma State 46-36 for their second straight national championship.

Everything was heavenly in Lexington, but the Fabulous Five was gone and storm clouds were brewing.

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