Jim Sweeney was never charged in connection with the infamous Boston College point-shaving scandal in the late 1970s. But as the Eagles’ captain — and as a witness in a trial that saw several mobsters convicted — Sweeney’s career in Chestnut Hill will be forever linked to the scandal, which is ESPN is featuring with a 30-for-30 documentary titled Playing for the Mob.
Watch the trailer from the documentary in the video above and read on for more about Sweeney:
1. Sweeney Has Admitted to Taking a $500 Payment From Mobsters Who Organized the Point-Shaving Scandal
According to a preview of the documentary posted by ESPN.com, Sweeney acknowledges he took a $500 payment from mobsters connected to Henry Hill, the notorious crime boss depicted by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.
Teammate Rick Kuhn, a former minor league baseball player with connections to small-time Pittsburgh mobsters, conspired with the mobsters to initiate the point-shaving process, in which some BC players agreed to intentionally play poorly in certain games so that the Eagles wouldn’t cover the point spread.
Sweeney has said that Kuhn got him involved in the scandal and that Sweeney took a payment, but never tanked on the court in order to comply with the mobsters.
2. A Boston College Spokesman Recently Said Sweeney ‘Betrayed’ His Teammates
The Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler documented Kuhn’s role in the scandal and his luring of Sweeney and fellow captain Ernie Cobb in a March 2014 profile:
It’s been more than 30 years since the scandal, but Boston College’s stance on Sweeney, Kuhn and Cobb hasn’t softened.
From the Globe:
Time has distanced them from the dangerous decisions of their youth. But mercy has eluded them at BC, where they remain outcasts despite Cobb’s exoneration on the charges against him and Sweeney’s appeals for reconciliation.
“Jim Sweeney, Rick Kuhn, and Ernie Cobb betrayed the trust of their teammates and the responsibility afforded them as student athletes at Boston College,’’ school spokesman Jack Dunn said. “Their actions separated them from the BC community, and they need to seek forgiveness from their teammates, whom they betrayed and who paid a price for their actions.’’
3. Sweeney Testified Against Kuhn & Several Mobsters
Sweeney was never charged in connection with the scandal, but his witness testimony at the ensuing trial helped prosecutors land convictions of Kuhn and several of the mobsters.
From the Globe:
Sweeney said he acted under duress, and he was never charged. His testimony, offered without the protection of immunity, helped prosecutors convict Kuhn and four others, including a murderous underworld leader, Jimmy “The Gent’’ Burke, portrayed by Robert De Niro in the classic film.
“It was an incredible scandal,’’ said Kevin Mackey, BC’s assistant coach at the time. “Let’s face it, it was Goodfellas, the FBI, federal laws broken, a pristine campus sullied — all of that.’’
4. Sweeney Was Such a Good Student That BC Nominated Him for a Rhodes Scholarship
In many ways, Sweeney belies the profile of a player you’d expect to be conspiring with mobsters. He was an academic All-American, carried a grade point average of better than 3.5 and was such a model student that the school nominated him for a Rhodes Scholarship.
The Heights, BC’s student newspaper, ran a glowing feature of Sweeney in December 1979 — a year after the point-shaving scandal, but a year before the scandal became public — documenting the captain’s amazing classroom resume.
In a story headlined “Jim Sweeney: Consistent On & Off Court,” reporter Chuck Shimkus wrote:
The term student/athlete has a variety of connotations depending on who you ask. A cynic of college athletics would say the student/athlete is an individual who can read and write … his name, that is. A little more optimistic observer would look upon the student/athlete as one that contributes as much in the classroom as on the field. BC’s Jim Sweeney has done his best the second definition.
In addition to his on-court heroics, Sweeney is a double major in English and Communications in the School of A&S. Academically, Sweeney has maintained an impressive 3.5 cum while at the Heights in a challenging major. Due to his impressive showing in the classroom, his awards include the Heights Athletic Achievement Award, which is bestowed to the most all-around athlete on the BC campus encompassing character, athletic achievement and scholastic excellence.
Sweeney, a 5-foot-11 point guard, was a renowned playmaker who won the 1980 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the country’s top player under 6 feet.
He described his game in the 1979 Heights article, which was published during the middle of his award-winning season.
The scounting report on me at Tennessee was that I wasn’t a factor and the Boston papers have said that I lack speed, have a weak shot and pass poorly. I have really had to hear a lot of criticism but I have learned to accept it.
5. Sweeney Writes Comic Books About a Character He Says Will Rival Spongebob, Bart Simpson & Mickey Mouse in Popularity
Sweeney and his wife, Maura — his college sweetheart at BC — live in Florida, where Sweeney has written a series of sports comic books based on an animated character named Mike.
Judging by Sweeney’s Linked-In profile, he has awfully high hopes for Mike:
The witty and ever talkative MIKE has been in my DNA since birth, and I created MIKE to become a global sports brand that both entertains and positively impacts culture.
In time, I know MIKE will be seen on television, Jumbotrons and the web. Eventually, he’ll rival the popularity of other timeless animated brands like Spongebob, Bart Simpson and Mickey Mouse. But in MIKE’s case, he’ll be the first ever animated sports brand that transcends all sports.
In 2006, Sweeney founded a business called New Vision Entertainment, whose LinkedIn page says it “creates and develops unique intellectual properties for national distribution.”
The company’s properties include the Mike brand and an animated Latina soccer ball named Kix.