Second Chance for a Fallen Coach

May 1, 2006

Coaches who violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules can face severe penalties. Few have felt the brunt more than Todd Bozeman, the former men’s basketball coach at the University of California at Berkeley, who, in essence, received an eight-year expulsion from college coaching in 1997 after he admitted giving $30,000 to the family of a recruit.

The NCAA issued a “show cause” order that required any college interested in hiring Bozeman to appear before an NCAA infractions committee to explain why they shouldn’t face penalties of their own if they hired him. No one did. So Bozeman waited.

Last June, when the penalty was lifted, Bozeman said he had learned from his mistakes, but wasn’t getting his hopes up for a quick re-hire. For months there were no deals.

Then last week, Morgan State University, a historically black institution in Baltimore, announced it was giving Bozeman the opportunity to take over its men’s basketball program. The hire proved once again an axiom in college sports: A repentant coach with a winning record usually gets a second chance.

Jerry Tarkanian, formerly of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and Bob Huggins, formerly of the University of Cincinnati, are other successful coaches whose off-the-court reputations and player graduation rates left something to be desired but who still found work soon after being pushed out of their respective positions. Tarkanian became coach of California State University at Fresno despite being party to numerous scandals at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, (and wound up getting Fresno State on NCAA probation, too) and Huggins was hired at Kansas State University this spring despite a finding by Cincinnati that the coach had “lost institutional control over the program.”

That Bozeman received a show cause wasn’t surprising -- the NCAA regularly issues the penalty as a way to flag coaches who are guilty of blatant infractions. What makes Bozeman’s sentence notable was the eight-year duration. Some believed it was a coaching death sentence for Bozeman, even though he was under 40 years old at the time of the penalty.

Floyd Kerr, Morgan State’s director of athletics, said the university would have been hesitant to consider Bozeman for a coaching opening during his sentence. “Institutions don’t want to go through the extra steps while someone has a probation letter hanging on them,” said Tom Yeager, commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association and a member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions. He added that even after a show-cause sentence is up, some coaches still have a difficult time finding work.

But Bozeman’s 63-35 record as the Cal coach and his verbal commitment to run a clean program convinced Kerr and Morgan State administrators to give the coach a shot. “He was very clear with me [Friday] that he was given a second chance, and I agree with him,” Kerr said. “He’s done what he needed to do to get himself back.”

Added Clinton R. Coleman, a university spokesman: “Everyone who I spoke to believed he deserved a second chance. He’s ready to get back into basketball and do it right this time.”

Yeager said he was not surprised to see Bozeman land back in Division I athletics. “He has been sincere in acknowledging mistakes he has made,” he said “It’s encouraging to see an institution that decided to take him at his word.”

Bozeman was appreciative Thursday during a press conference in which Morgan State introduced him as coach. He acknowledged that the past eight years had taken a toll on him. “It was tough because I felt like I let a lot of people down that supported me,” Bozeman said. “Sometimes in your youth you don’t understand that. You don’t realize that you represent so many more people.”

Kerr said that the university’s selection committee, which included alumni in the booster club, considered Bozeman’s entire body of work, which included multiple NCAA tournament Sweet 16 appearances and a recruiting resume that included multiple future National Basketball Association stars.

The university, Coleman said, does not plan to provide any extra monitoring of Bozeman. 

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