Mossman Prophecies No. 013
July 2, 2007
Michael Franzese spoke to Oklahoma’s student-athletes Sunday night at the Kerr-McGee Stadium
Club. How good was he? Five hundred highly-strung
student-athletes sat still for more than an hour.
Just a few years ago, Franzese was the youngest individual
on Fortune magazine's survey of the 'The Fifty Biggest
Mafia Bosses,' (Vanity Fair magazine), ranking No.
18, just five spots behind John Gotti. Never mind
the 10 years in prison, his future in the Colombo family
Then Franzese turned his life around. He now travels
the country giving faith-based and anti-gambling messages. It
was the latter that he addressed with OU personnel
As someone who played a leadership role in organized
gambling the former “Long Island Don” speaks
Franzese admitted that with lotteries in 48 states
and casinos dotting the map in many places between
Las Vegas and Atlantic City he is “swimming up
stream.” Why then would officials at the
University of Oklahoma bother bringing such a message
to their campus?
Because nothing threatens the integrity of sport or
its participants quite like gambling. Franzese
cited a survey in which more than 100 college football
players accepted some form of payment to influence
the outcome of games. If margins of victory, winners
and/or losers can be rigged, we have moved from the
kinds of indiscretions in sports that harm a few to
one that might topple the whole thing.
And that’s to say nothing of other forms of gambling
that exist, many of which are a beautiful lure to competitive-minded
people. Pete Rose and Art Schlichter are the notables
in that area, but to think they are anything but the
tip of the iceberg is unrealistic.
Near the end of Franzese’s question and answer
period with the athletes, one young man stood up and
asked about the mixed messages of gambling discipline
and permissiveness. It was a startling moment
of perception. Franzese acknowledged the dichotomy,
gave an informed response, but in the end could do
only what the rest of us can do ... shrug our shoulders.
As Franzese said when ESPN does shows like Outside
the Lines to expose and investigate the harm of gambling,
then turns around to program hours of professional
poker, what are we to think? Moreover, the same
media that will openly discuss or print betting odds
on college sports will be the first to chastise any
player or coach who falls prey to fixing a game.
Is the correlation, automatic? Certainly not,
but there is a relationship there that cannot be ignored. History
tells us that much and with gambling taking more of
the center stage we must expect more incidents in the
I have seen Franzese speak three times now. His
message is equally riveting each time. Here’s
to hoping that the reverberations of that message can
somehow reach beyond the walls of the stadium club
to all our ears.
The threat of gambling in sports, including those on
the college level, is serious. The responsibility
for controlling that threat belongs to all of us.
If it’s a choice between personal enjoyment and
the integrity of the games we love, the choice should
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Kenny Mossman, Associate Athletics Director for
Communications, provides his perspective on Oklahoma
Athletics in his regular column on SoonerSports.com.