In 1973, 15 college basketball players were honored with a Hershberger Award from the National Association of Collegiate Basketball Writers. Some of those players went on to further college glory and the NBA (one now coaches the Harlem Globetrotters). But the awards were not given in 1974, or any other year, because the award was a hoax, cooked up by four students at College of William & Mary. Steven Noll, Paul Pavlich, Reed Bohne, and Tom Duncan selected the players, sent certificates to their colleges, and issued a press release that the AP circulated.
The pranksters went to great lengths to make the award believable. They spent hours at the library, paging through newspaper box scores to help them select recipients. They designed stationery with a spinning basketball and the official-sounding slogan: "Serving the Sport." They sent correspondence from Mr. Noll's parents' address in Garden City, N.Y., for big-city authority.
"My mother thought we'd go to prison for mail fraud," Mr. Noll said.
Paul Pavlich, a co-conspirator, said that plotting the scam was as painstaking as an ascent of Mount Everest. "We tried to figure out everything that could go wrong," he said.
Their preparation paid off. Newspapers printed their fabricated details. An article in the Miami Herald published March 27, 1973, announced the all-rookie team as "selected by the nation's college basketball writers." The Hartford (Conn.) Courant noted that North Carolina State's David Thompson was "the only unanimous choice." News of the award also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Constitution, New York Daily News and elsewhere.
The players who won those awards only recently found out it was a hoax. Forty years on, most think it was a pretty good joke. Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal. Link -via Metafilter
(Image credit: Steven Noll)