Three Times The Super Bowl Was Rigged, According to Players, Coaches and Referees
Was The Super Bowl Really Rigged?
For the most part, fans crying foul after every game that doesn’t go as they expected is nothing more than conspiracy theory. That being said, conspiracies in sports are real, and we have several examples throughout history as proof.
In 2015 the FBI arrested seven FIFA officials as part of an investigation into bribery, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. The investigation resulted in the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter. NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to time in federal prison for his role in “Operation Flagrant Foul“, a scandal that involved NBA referees betting on games. You have several cases of point shaving in college basketball, and Major League Baseball is no stranger to scandals involving gambling.
It’s one thing when fans ask questions, but here we take a look at three times Hall of Fame players and coaches claimed that the Super Bowl was rigged.
SUPER BOWL III (New York Jets 16 – Baltimore Colts 7)
It was 1969, and it was a pivotal moment for the Super Bowl. The previous two Super Bowls saw the NFL team run roughshod over the team representing the AFL. Rumor has it that another lopsided Super Bowl loss for the AFL would threaten the future of the Super Bowl. The Colts came in as a heavy favorite (-18), and still Joe Namath was guaranteeing victory for the New York Jets.
Vince Lombardi went on record saying that the Jets had no chance of victory. The owner of the Colts (Caroll Rosenblum) was known to be a heavy gambler, and he died under mysterious circumstances in 1979. A large bet was placed in the City of Baltimore, and according to urban legend it was Rosenblum betting 3 Million on the Jets.
Colts Pro Bowl defensive end Bubba Smith blamed quarterback Earl Morrall for throwing the game. He appeared to be missing wide open receivers, and he threw for 71 yards and three INTs on 6-of-17 passing. The Jets went on to win by a score of 16-7, leading to the merger of the NFL and AFL, and securing the future of the Super Bowl.
SUPER BOWL XXXVII (Tampa Buccaneers 48 – Oakland Raiders 21)
Multiple players on the Raiders accused head coach Bill Callahan of throwing the game against his mentor John Gruden. Callahan was the offensive coordinator under Gruden in Oakland, and was promoted to head coach when Gruden left for Tampa.
Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson, Tim Brown and Barret Robbins all questioned their coach’s decision to change the game plan just two days before the game. After practicing a run heavy attack all week, Callahan completely flipped the script on the Friday before the Super Bowl, telling the team he now intends to throw the ball 60 times.
If that wasn’t enough, Callahan used the same audible calls that the team used when John Gruden was in Oakland. As to why a coach would sabotage his own team in a Super Bowl, the theory is that his rocky relationship with owner Al Davis played a roll.
SUPER BOWL XL (Pittsburgh Steelers 21 – Seattle Seahawks 10)
The Seahawks had the NFL’s best offense, and MVP running back Shaun Alexander, but outside of the Pacific Northwest everyone was cheering for Pittsburgh. It was the final season for Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis. He was given the key to the city by Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and fans started referring to Detroit as “Bettisburgh”.
The media, the fans and possibly the league were all backing the Steelers. Despite Seattle coming in as the #1 seed, and the Steelers being a Wild Card team, Pittsburgh was a slight favorite in Las Vegas. The officials didn’t waste any time making their mark on this game. Seattle scored what appeared to be the first touchdown of the game with two minutes left in the first quarter, but the play was flagged for offensive pass interference. John Madden said “when you think of pass interference, that’s not what you think about“.
The Seahawks appeared to have a 1st and goal at the 1 yard line, setting them up to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. Referee Bill Levy threw a flag for holding, even though he was the only one in the building that saw a hold. Levy would end up officially apologizing to the Seattle organization years later. The most egregious of all the controversial calls in the game was a block below the waste that was actually a tackle on the ball carrier. Madden said “the ref thought he saw something that he didn’t see“.
After the game Boston reporter Tom Curran said: “The game reeked of orchestration by the officials, and made you feel dirty by the time your turned it off.” The disappearance of NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira after the game was also controversial. Instead of making a statement to address the controversy, Pereira