Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled First-Ever Football Sideline Reporter Sentenced To 2-4 Years For Fraud

The first-ever football sideline reporter was sentenced to two to four years in a Pennsylvania state prison Wednesday. Don Tollefson—who was hired by ABC Sports in 1974 along with Jim Lampley after a nationwide talent search for someone to "represent the face and voice of the American college student"—was found guilty in January of swindling $340,000 from about 200 people who bought nonexistent sports and travel packages from him. The proceeds from the packages were supposed to help fund a variety of charities, but instead prosecutors contended that they supported Tollefson's drug and alcohol addictions. Tollefson claimed that he was simply a terrible bookkeeper, but the jury didn't buy his defense.


After his year as a pioneer on the sideline of football games, Tollefson was hired by ABC's Philadelphia affiliate, and became a local institution. He worked as a sportscaster at WPVI for 15 years, before leaving in 1990 to start his own non-profit, "Winning Ways." He was hired by Philadelphia's Fox affiliate in 1995 where he held a variety of on-camera roles, before his contract wasn't renewed in 2008 for reasons that still aren't totally known. Tollefson was arrested in 2014.

During sentencing Wednesday, a psychologist testified that that Tollefson suffered from narcissistic personality disorder, and added "He is not a person who thinks he's God. He hates himself." Tollefson also apparently told the psychologist about some messed up childhood trauma. Via

[The psychologist] said the condition, which includes inflated self-worth and a lack of empathy, likely stems from Tollefson's upbringing in San Francisco. [The psychologist] said Tollefson told him that Tollefson's mother forced him to sleep in her bed and gave him daily enemas until he was 16. Thus began a cycle of depression and self-medicated drinking and later prescription painkillers, [the psychologist] said.


When he was arrested in February of 2014, Tollefson told the judge that he was living off of Social Security disability income. When he gets out in two to four years—with good behavior, he could be free in 14 months—Tollefson will have to pay $164,000 in restitution, as well as deal with a likely civil suit from the William Penn Ticket Agency for the remainder. The judge recommended that Tollefson serve his time in a facility that "helps inmates battling addiction and provides cognitive behavioral therapy."


h/t Ross; screenshot via CBS Philly

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