Sunday, July 15, 2007

Troy Aikman, UCLA Football & the Mafia

NY Daily News
From: Metro Sports
Sunday, March 21, 1999

Aikman on Mobster Guest List
Joins UCLA party boy roster
Daily News Staff Writers

The convicted New York gangster who inspired a point-shaving investigation at UCLA threw parties attended not only by college players, but by one of the biggest stars in the NFL — Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman.

On two occasions, Aikman, the three-time Super Bowl winner with a sterling reputation, showed up at parties hosted by Dominick (Donny Shacks) Montemarano, the Daily News has learned.

Aikman isn't suspected of any wrongdoing. His agent said Aikman had little contact with Montemarano, a convicted racketeer whose socializing with UCLA players sparked an FBI probe.

"Troy thinks he was at two dinners at that fellow's house," said the agent, Leigh Steinberg. "He went there with a friend, David Norrie, and never really spent any time with (Montemarano). Troy had no idea about his background at all."

Norrie, another former UCLA quarterback, said Aikman wasn't worried. "He knows he's done nothing wrong," said Norrie, who has known Montemarano for a year and a half. "He just went to a social gathering, where there were 20 or 30 other people."

Another prominent ex-Bruin player, Rick Neuheisel, also attended a Donny Shacks party. Neuheisel, the recently named head football coach at the University of Washington, said he, like Aikman, tagged along with Norrie.

"David's a good friend, and he invited me to one of Dominick's Monday Night Football parties when I was in town recruiting," Neuheisel said. "I had no idea who (Montemarano) was. I was shocked. I was going, 'Holy cow, you gotta be kidding me.' "

Montemarano fancies himself a connoisseur and selected the wines for the parties, said a source who was at several of the gatherings.

Most of the parties — attended by starlets, actors and models as well as Bruin football players — were centered around Monday Night Football.

But Montemarano entertained at other times as well; Aikman attended parties this past January and in January of '98, according to Steinberg.

A reputed Colombo family capo, Montemarano was convicted of racketeering with Mafia boss Carmine Persico in 1986. He served 11 years of an 18-year sentence, relocating to Century City when he was released in 1996.

As The News first reported 10 days ago, Montemarano and current UCLA football players, including star quarterback Cade McNown, were the focus of a coast-to-coast point-shaving probe by the FBI that began last August.

The probe moved into high gear, sources said, when the heavily favored Bruins failed to cover the point spread against Oregon State on Nov. 7, barely winning 41-34 on a 61-yard McNown touchdown pass to an open Brad Melsby with 21 seconds left.

In December, Big Apple FBI agents tailed Montemarano after he flew east and chauffeured McNown, his mother and brother around town during the Heisman Award weekend, taking them shopping and to dinner at Sparks Steak House, the site of the 1985 assassination of Mafia boss Paul Castellano.

In February, Los Angeles agents interviewed McNown and other players about their dealings with Montemarano.

Following News reports about the parties, UCLA and FBI officials confirmed that a federal investigation into links between Bruin players and Montemarano had been conducted but had found no evidence of wrongdoing by any athletes.

Neuheisel said he had had minimal contact with the mobster. Like Aikman, he was never questioned by law enforcement officers. But he plans to tell his players to be careful about whom they socialize with. "I'll use myself as an example," he said.

Norrie said he had no knowledge of Montemarano's background before the investigation.

"It was the kind of thing where if Troy's in town, I'd call and tell him, we're going to Dominick's for a party," Norrie said. "It was not a situation where I'm going around introducing him to Dominick."