Michael Franzese was a rising star in the Colombo Crime Family, one of New York’s most ruthless mafia families. But even as a made man earning millions of dollars a week, Franzese wanted to walk away from a life of organized crime, something easier said than done. In the lastest episode of The Jim Rome Podcast, Franzese joined Rome in studio and shared his story—from becoming a “made man” to serving time in prison and years in solitary confinement, to walking away from the mafia altogether.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Franzese talked not just about his life in organized crime, but how he’s spent the last two decades, speaking about the dangers of crime, in particular, the dangers of gambling for college student-athletes. While Franzese hasn’t been a part of the action in over 20 years, he was asked by Rome if college athletes are still fixing games.

“You don’t want to put a blanket over everybody but is it going on now, absolutely. 100 percent,” Franzese said.

While there hasn’t been a major game-fixing scandal in college sports in years, Franzese said it’s less about effecting the outcome of a game and more about manipulating the point spread.

“People call me up and say, ‘Do you think this game is fixed?’ And everybody thinks every game is fixed. It’s not like that,” Franzese said. “But are the kids getting themselves in trouble and throwing games? Yes, they are. I mean they are doing it. When I say throwing, (I mean) compromising the outcome… I mean there’s a way to manipulate the spread. Because remember, it’s never losing or winning—its manipulating the spread.”

The now 66-year-old explained how he would get a basketball player on the take during his crime days, manipulating a player far easier than you may think.

“You’re favored to win by 15. Don’t win by 15, win by 10, win by 8,” Franzese would say. “Don’t blow the game. We want you win—just don’t cover the spread. Who’s going to know? Who’s going to know?

“You got ten games left,” Franzese would say to them. “I’m telling you I’ve pushed 10-grand across the table. Put this in your pocket. You do this for me 15 times you’ve got 150-grand. Who’s better than you? Put it away—it’s cash. Nobody is going to know. Gets in their head right away. In a basketball game, it’s very, very easy to manipulate that spread. Very, very easy. Same with a referee.”

Franzese said he’d much rather turn a referee than an athlete, just because their job is so subjective.

“They can call a foul every time the ball goes up and down the court, or they don’t have to call a foul,” Franzese said. “So they can manipulate the game so easy. Just the spread, that’s all they have to do.” ​

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