Bozeman seeking a second chance
Todd Bozeman's eight-year banishment from college coaching ends in June.
He wants back in as soon as it's over.
But no guarantees exist that he will get another Division I head or assistant coaching job.
"How can this be the land of second chances except for Todd Bozeman?'' Bozeman told ESPN.com this week by phone from his Washington D.C.-area home. "I've already apologized to everyone, to the school, and nine years later I've paid my dues.''
The NCAA's most severe penalty for a program is the death penalty (see: SMU football).
The NCAA's harshest penalty for a coach is the show-cause.
Jim Harrick Jr., a former assistant coach at Georgia, just got a seven-year show-cause slapped on his resume. Former Baylor head coach Dave Bliss and former Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien could get one too when those respective cases are heard in the coming months or year.
Bozeman, who will be 41 when his penance ends on June 1, 2005, is the example of how difficult it is for a coach to get hired during this probationary period and possibly beyond.
"It is a Scarlet Letter that someone is carrying around,'' said Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Thomas Yeager, who chairs the NCAA Infractions Committee.
"It's not a prohibition to hire someone, but it is a good impediment to hire someone during that time. If you polled the general leaders and membership with a hypothetical question that if you knew a coach was involved in a major ethical violation, should they ever be allowed to work with college athletes, then mostly the reaction would be no.''
The NCAA uses the show-cause cautiously, because of the impact it could have on someone's career. The penalty, as Yeager said, doesn't mean a school can't hire a coach during this period. But if they do, then they must go in front of the NCAA Infractions Committee and show how they're going to monitor the individual during the rest of the probationary period. They could do this in writing or go in front of the committee.
The committee then may determine to add sanctions to the coach while he's at the new school. Yeager said former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel had recruiting restrictions put on him from violations that occurred under his watch at Colorado.
"It is a very serious impediment because in the end you have to go to the president of the school, say you'd like to hire this person, but you have to be aware that we have to go in front of the committee on infractions,'' Yeager said. "There could be other consequences where the coach's duties could be restricted. Once they realize there could be extra baggage, they might choose another candidate.''
Cal was put on three year's probation in 1997 due to violations that occurred during Bozeman's brief, three-plus seasons as coach. The violations came the spring after Ben Braun, then a first-year coach, led the Bears to a Sweet 16 loss to North Carolina.
The Bears were prohibited from participating in the 1998 NCAA Tournament and required to vacate their 1996 NCAA Tournament appearance (first-round loss to Iowa State).
The university returned 90 percent of its share of revenue from the tournament, too. The school dismissed the head coach. And the NCAA tacked on a scholarship reduction by two a year for the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.
The payments of $15,000 for each year Gardner went to Cal (he later transferred to Pepperdine) were made in 1994-95 and 1995-96 through "a friend of the head coach and other individuals.'' The head coach was also cited for denying the violations "until a few days before the committee's hearing and providing false and misleading information to the university and NCAA enforcement staff on several occasions during the investigation,'' according to the NCAA's statement on the violations.
"Usually coaches who have had the show-cause head off to the pros because it is extremely difficult to get a job,'' Yeager said. "It's designed to do that, to cause another institution to pause a bit knowing that they have to be cognizant that the coach had a past record of problems.''
Bozeman was named interim coach on Feb. 8, 1993, after Lou Campanelli was fired. Moving up as an assistant isn't abnormal, but there were rumors of a coup that Bozeman has always denied. Bozeman was named fulltime coach on March 17, 1993, after leading Cal to the Sweet 16, including a second-round win over Duke.
Bozeman's record is listed as 35-63 due to forfeits of games in which Gardner played at Cal. Cal's actual record in 1994-95 was 13-14, but it became 0-27 with forfeits. The 1995-96 record of 17-11 turned into 2-25. Bozeman led Cal to the NCAAs in '94 and '96, losing in the first round each of those seasons. The reason this doesn't add up (17-11 becoming 2-25) is because the 28th game is the NCAA Tournament first-round loss that was vacated (meaning it never really occurred under the NCAA's watch). It simply disappeared.
"I want another chance to go back and prove that I can be successful again,'' Bozeman said. "The violation put a tarnish on my college coaching career, and I want to go back and change that. I developed players; seven went on to the NBA.''
Bozeman rattled off Jason Kidd, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Ed Gray, Sean Marks, Lamond Murray, Michael Stewart and Tremaine Fowlkes, who started his career at Cal before finishing it at Fresno State, as the examples of former Cal pros that he had a hand in developing.
Bozeman moved back to the D.C. area after he was fired in the fall of '96. He did regional scouting for the then-Vancouver Grizzlies and then was an advance scout for Toronto from 1998 to 2000. He has been working as a pharmaceutical rep since, while also working with the D.C. Assault AAU program and maintaining his recruiting ties.
Bozeman said he has done clinics in Africa and South America.
|“||I would have to be a complete fool to get back in there and make the same mistake again. My hand already got caught in the cookie jar. My hand already got hot. ”|
|— Todd Bozeman|
So, why hasn't he landed one?
"Sometimes the money hasn't been right,'' Bozeman said. "I've had at least four presidents say 'we're not going to do that.' I've had ADs excited, but the buck always stops at the president. There hasn't been a high major where it got that high.''
GW's Karl Hobbs had an opening last spring but ended up going with former La Salle assistant Roland Houston.
"He contacted me about an interest in the job,'' Hobbs said. "He was intriguing to me, but I felt Roland was a better fit for what we needed. (The show-cause) does scare away guys from hiring him.
"You have to know the guy if you're willing to put yourself in that position to hiring a guy who admitted violating rules to that degree. It has to be someone you have to have a great deal of trust in. Had I felt he was the right fit for us, then I would have pursued it at that time. I think and I hope he'll get another opportunity.''
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said the probationary period wasn't over and that was the main reason why the Hokies couldn't hire Bozeman.
"It wasn't a feasible option at our university,'' Greenberg said. "Our university has a policy that would forbid us to hire him. If any NCAA blemish comes up, then we don't pursue it.''
The Campanelli rumor doesn't help Bozeman, either. He said he wouldn't be surprised if that hurt him as much as the show-cause. When contacted by ESPN.com about Bozeman's penalty ending, Campanelli said, "I've got nothing to say on that.'' Campanelli, who is the Pac-10 coordinator of officials, said he once ran into Bozeman at an NBA game. He didn't say if he spoke with him and didn't want to discuss it any longer.
"I never would have thought I wouldn't have another opportunity by now,'' Bozeman said. "This is my wildest imagination. I never thought it would be this hard. I'm fighting that other thing too (Campanelli). I had nothing to do with that.''
That's why someone like Coppin State's Fang Mitchell would have been the perfect coach to hire Bozeman. Mitchell is also the athletic director and is as secure as any coach in the country at his institution.
Reggie Minton, the associate director for the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said it's not fair that Bozeman probably has to know the coach or athletic director, but "that's how the world works.''
Minton said a coach who just gets Bozeman's resume and doesn't know him isn't likely to hire him. He said it's tough enough to get a job when a coach gets fired, let alone if the coach has NCAA violations on his record.
"I'm a believer in giving someone a second chance,'' Mitchell said. "But when I did have something available, I couldn't compete salary-wise. Todd was one of those coaches that admitted it, admitted a mistake. I don't think everyone has the same mind that I have in trying to reach out to people. I recognize that it will be tough for him and being out for so long also hurts him, but I still look at him as a quality coach who made a mistake.
"I would give him a second chance, but I do see a lot of coaches who would have a problem with that.''
The head and assistant coaching carousel won't kick in until late February or March. Until then, Bozeman is hoping to network and be in position to land a job once his penalty ends in June.
"I would have to be a complete fool to get back in there and make the same mistake again,'' Bozeman said. "My hand already got caught in the cookie jar. My hand already got hot.''
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His Weekly Word on college basketball is updated Fridays throughout the year.