Iowa sports gambling stories of the past, from Connie Hawkins to Alex Karras

Dargan Southard
Des Moines Register

While the increased acceptance of legal sports betting is still a relatively new concept, the intersection of gambling and athletes certainly is not.

Mentions of bookies and organized-crime connections have largely faded from the conversation, replaced by betting apps, casinos and sportsbooks. But the updated version still carries plenty of risk for those involved.

This week proved that more than ever before in the state of Iowa, where its two biggest universities are dealing with a combined 40-plus athletes who have allegedly placed sports bets in some form or fashion. The investigation remains ongoing and could take some time to resolve.

Given this week's news, here are a few blasts from the past when it comes to sports betting and Iowa ties. Stories are listed in chronological order.

Connie Hawkins enrolled in Iowa but never played a game for the Hawkeyes after he was expelled for associating with a known college basketball gambler. Hawkins went on to a have productive pro career.

Connie Hawkins and an unfair case of guilty by association

The former University of Iowa basketball player shouldn't be on this list, but Connie Hawkins is after he was expelled from the school in 1961 as part of the massive college basketball point-shaving scandal that broke that season.

Here's the thing, though. Hawkins, as a college freshman, was ineligible to play varsity sports during the 1960-61 campaign per NCAA rules at the time. His worst action was borrowing $200 from gambling associate Jack Molinas, which Hawkins' brother said was repaid before the scandal broke. But that association was enough to include Hawkins in the investigation. He was also kept from seeking legal counsel while being interrogated by New York City detectives.

Despite no arrest or indictment, Hawkins was expelled from Iowa and effectively barred from college basketball as a whole. That tanked Hawkins' pro stock as well, resulting in him going undrafted in 1965 and officially banned from the NBA in 1966.

The ban was lifted in 1969 after the NBA settled a lawsuit with Hawkins that paid him nearly $1.3 million. Hawkins eventually played seven seasons in the NBA split among the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks, earning four all-star appearances. He died in 2017.

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras (71) in action against the Baltimore Colts in 1964.

Former Iowa standout Alex Karras popped for NFL betting in 1963

After a dominant college career with the Hawkeyes, Alex Karras had played five productive seasons with the Detroit Lions when he was suspended for betting on NFL games.

Former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle said Karras made "at least six bets of $50 to $100." Karras was suspended for the entire 1963 season before being reinstated the following year. Karras played seven more seasons with the Lions after that. He died in 2012.

Iowa's Ronnie Harmon shown in the 1986 Rose Bowl against UCLA.

Ronnie Harmon and the Rose Bowl

A bad day on the field, or something fishier? That's what Iowa football fans and plenty of others were asking themselves after Hawkeyes running back Ronnie Harmon fumbled four times in Iowa's 1986 Rose Bowl loss to UCLA.

Harmon had fumbled just once in his previous 11 games, but he coughed the ball up twice during runs and twice more after hauling in passes on that infamous New Year's Day. The Hawkeyes suffered a big loss despite being 4.5-point favorites coming in.

Big Ten officials and assistant U.S. attorney Howard Pearl examined the Rose Bowl film, eventually concluding Harmon did not fumble on purpose.

"The investigation was apparently an off-shoot of a Chicago federal grand jury probe into alleged improper dealings by professional sports agents Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom," the Los Angeles Times wrote in its reporting. "Both Harmon and former Iowa defensive back Devon Mitchell have been implicated in that case for allegedly receiving illegal payments from the agents before they graduated."

The allegations did little to derail Harmon's pro career. He was the 16th overall pick in 1986 and played 12 NFL seasons split among the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Houston Oilers and Chicago Bears. Ironically, Harmon is one of five NFL running backs ever to gain more than 10,000 all-purpose yards with fewer than 20 fumbles.

Northwestern running back Dennis Lundy, shown here in 1992, admitted that he fumbled against Iowa on purpose in 1994 to win a $400 bet. He eventually served a month in prison after lying to a federal grand jury.

Speaking of fumbles, Northwestern running back Dennis Lundy has a rather suspicious one inside Kinnick Stadium

While Iowa's 49-13 win over Northwestern in 1994 may not sound controversial on the surface, Dennis Lundy's third-quarter fumble eventually made plenty of headlines.

With the Hawkeyes owning a 35-13 lead, Northwestern caught a break when Iowa fumbled barely outside its own end zone. The Wildcats had a chance to climb back into the game if they could convert the rare 1-yard scoring drive.

After a run to the left for no gain, Lundy took the second-down handoff and watched the ball squirt down his leg into a massive pile. The Hawkeyes recovered and eventually tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the blowout win.

Lundy later admitted that he fumbled on purpose to win a bet that paid him $400 if Northwestern didn't cover the spread. Amid the investigation, Lundy lied to a federal grand jury and received a one-month prison sentence with two years' probation in May 1999.

Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and Email him at