Point Shaving Accusations at the University of Hawaii, What Does It All Mean?

Earlier this week news broke of a possible point-shaving scheme involving some players on the Hawaii Warriors football team. Picked by some as the favorite to win the WAC this year, it's been a disappointing year for Hawaii on the field compiling a meager 5-6 record so far. The latest news is not something any program ever wants to hear, as these kinds of accusations are very serious, and the implications/consequences are fairly dire. Here, I am going to take a look at what news I could find and provide some opinion on what it all could mean.

On November 3rd, the UH admissions office received an anonymous letter implying that some players on the team were involved in a point-shaving scheme. The leadership at UH responded immediately by notifying the Honolulu Police Dept and the NCAA of the letter. As it stands now the HPD hasn't opened a criminal investigation due to the lack of evidence, but likely are still keeping an eye on the matter. Hawaii record against the spread this year is 3-7-1 (0-5-1 in their last six games) which is far worse than any other D-1 team.

For a good external link to catch yourself up on the news so far, head to this link from KITV4 news in Honolulu. Included at that link are some videos of the local newscasts on the matter, well worth a look as none of them are very long. At this link from Hawaii News Now, the NCAA is taking the allegations "very seriously" and are planning on doing their due diligence in the matter, perhaps beyond what the police department can do. That link also includes a video of an interview of head coach Greg McMackin after Hawaii's practice on Wednesday. The interview is primarily questions about Tulsa, but there are some questions about the scandal to which McMackin talks about how he's handled the adversity with the team.

Another interesting link I found is this article from www.pregame.com, a sports gambling website, where RJ Bell takes a look at some of the betting numbers for the Hawaii games this year to see if he could find anything suspicious in them. Follow after the jump for the results of his inquiry.

1) Record against the spread. Teams that point-shave lose ATS.
Hawaii’s ATS Record: 3-7-1 (0-5-1 last 6 games)

2) Big money bet against team in question.
More money bet ON Hawaii: 4 times
More money bet AGAINST Hawaii: 6 times
Equal money bet: 1 time

3) Big money wins high percentage of the time
Big Money record: 4 winners, 5 losers (1 push), (once equal money)

4) When big money bet against team, team losses ATS.
Big money against Hawaii moved the line 3-points or more FOUR TIMES. Big bettors fading Hawaii won 3 times, lost 0 times, and pushed 1 time.

Most suspicious game:
Lost by 20 points as a 17-point favorite at UNLV.
Favorites of 17 or more have won 217 of 226 games this season.
Of the big 9 favorites who lost, Hawaii only one to lose by more than 7-points.

Conclusion: Data does not support rampant game fixing. (Consider that Pregame.com reporting uncovered that big bettors won 15 straight games during the Tim Donaghy scandal). Yet, the data is not inconsistent with targeted point shaving in a handful of games.

So as you can see the data doesn't indicate point-shaving on the scale that it did for the Donaghy scandal, but certainly doesn't rule it out. The article goes on to look at each specific game Hawaii's played in this year.

So while the overall numbers don't tell the story either way, there is the UNLV game that certainly sticks out, and its not just the numbers listed by Bell in his article. In the SBNation article on the Hawaii scandal, a tweet from UNLV Rebels beat writer Ryan Greene tells of some suspicious movement in the money line prior to the UNLV-Hawaii game.

The #UNLV money line when it hosted #Hawaii opened at around +1600. By kickoff, it was around +700. Pretty mysterious movement at the time.

Also from SBNation, Nikil Selvam of SBN Seattle has a short post about the strange extra point turned two point conversion at the end of the Washington Hawaii game.

From what I can see, I think its tough to say what conclusions can be drawn from the limited information available to us so far. While the 3-7-1 record against the spread is concerning, keep in mind we're talking about a team that was picked before the year to be a decent team and has struggled. Likely if you take a look at a similar team in years past their record against the spread is probably not all that great either. Most concerning to me is the UNLV game and there isn't much you can say to those numbers. It certainly is somewhat suspicious given where the game was played, but would the gamblers really make it that obvious? Wouldn't you be a little more discreet and choose some different games? Or maybe it was done then since the bets could be explained that they were just fans having confidence in their hometown team, assuming the bettors involved in the scandal are Vegas residents. Another possibility is that maybe it was a group of people each betting a smaller big money bet against Hawaii, thereby making it harder to track. Certainly less likely but definitely possible.

Also odd is the letter that was sent to UH. The letter just seems fairly vague, given that it doesn't implicate any specific players, and was simply an anonymous letter sent to the school rather than someone calling secret witness or what have you. If the person who wrote the letter were really concerned about uncovering the scandal, you would think they would go to some more extensive lengths to uncover it instead of a vague anonymous letter. As we've come to find out, the police are going to need something much more substantial for them to take any sort of action. It's certainly possible the letter is simply a ruse put on by someone, perhaps some upset fan or a bettor of the team disappointed that he or she lost money (as is pointed out in one of the news articles linked above). I would hope it were not an upset fan, because all this news coverage on the matter isn't at all good for the program as a whole.

It would be a real shame if this were true. After a very nice season last year and big things expected this year, especially with a player favored to take home WAC player of the year honors, its extremely unfair to your teammates and the Hawaii fans to go and throw games. While its possible a coach or two could be involved, I find that less likely since they don't have a ton of impact on the play on the field and are already getting paid a decent wage. This scandal even being mentioned at all has to be tough on the players and the coaches not involved, since now they're looking around the locker room with suspicious eyes and doubts about their teammates or players.

So stay tuned as this story could end up back in the news if more information comes to light. As it stands now there are more questions than answers, so not much can be concluded either way. It's an unfortunate occurrence for a program heading into a new conference, and hopefully they're able to bounce back from it and finish out the season on a high note.

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