Saturday, January 23, 2010

Irwin Dambrot

The name Irwin Dambrot certainly isn't a household one. And few probably noticed the obituary for Dambrot which appeared in today's New York Times.

But, 50 years ago, Dambrot was a central figure in a scandal which rocked the world of college basketball.

In 1950, Dambrot and his City College teammates did the unthinkable for a small school from New York--they won not only the prestigious National Invitational Tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament. City College is the only school to ever win both titles in the same year, and they did it in their backyard--both finals were contested in Madison Square Garden. (At the time, the NIT was the most prestigious post-season tournament in college hoops. Teams who played in the NIT could also qualify for and play in the NCAA Tourney.)

Dambrot was the hero of City College's win over Bradley in the NIT championship, scoring 23 points. After the NIT, the team won the NCAA championship ten days later with Dambrot hitting a shot and then making a key pass in the last minute of a 71-68 win, again over Bradley. He was named the tournament's most valuable player.

The glory of City College's achievement crumbled in 1951 when Dambrot and six teammates were arrested. The charge? Point shaving.

The City College players joined 25 others from Kentucky, New York University, Manhattan, Long Island University and Bradley who were implicated for taking bribes from gamblers in order to keep final scores within established point spreads.

The scandal was the greatest crisis ever faced in college basketball, particularly given the involvement of players from programs like Kentucky, Bradley and LIU--big-time programs during the late 1940's and early 1950's.

As for Dambrot, he was accused of receiving bribe offers in two regular season games in 1949-50 but was never implicated for shaving points in the 1950 championship games.

In 2009, Madison Square Garden invited members of the team back to the arena, having cited the double championship as the number one college basketball moment in the 75 years of games there. Suffering then from Parkinson's disease, and nursing a broken hip, Dambrot, when told of the honor at the Garden, said to his sister who planned to accompany him, "be sure and bring my uniform."

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