Todd Bozeman got close a few times -- or at least thought he did -- while interviewing for jobs over the past nine years.
He couldn't overcome the show-cause tag, though, the scarlet letter emblazoned on his record by the NCAA infractions committee for paying $30,000 to a recruit's family while he was the head coach at Cal during 1993-96.
That is, until the MEAC's Morgan State hired him a week ago.
"People treat you differently [with the show-cause]," Bozeman said. "It's a stigma that is attached."
Bozeman is one of the highest-profile coaches to have received a show-cause penalty (his was for eight years) from the NCAA. You might be surprised, though, to learn that the NCAA infractions committee hands out the penalty more often than you think.
What does "show-cause" mean? Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager, a member of the infractions committee and a former chairman, said the show-cause doesn't prevent a school from hiring someone. But, he said, the school would have to go in front of the committee and "basically explain what type of monitoring or corrective action that they intend to impose on their employee, and then there needs to be approval by the committee."
According to research from the infractions committee, 33 individuals are currently under show-cause penalties -- 16 in men's basketball. Some of the more notable names are former Minnesota coach Clem Haskins (seven years, expiring in 2007), former Georgia assistant Jim Harrick Jr. (seven years; expiring in 2011), former Baylor coach Dave Bliss (10 years; just doled out last year) and two recent ones -- former Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien (five years) and former Fresno State coach Ray Lopes (three years) -- that could be under appeal.
But coaches in other sports -- such as volleyball, swimming, women's tennis and football -- as well as athletic department administrators are also on the list. Over the last 10 years, 61 people have been slapped with some type of show-cause penalty.
"I know that if I didn't have the violation, then I wouldn't be at a situation [like] Morgan. My experience speaks for itself, but if Morgan didn't have the season it had, I wouldn't be here, either."
The show-cause is the NCAA infractions committee's way of putting the penalty on the specific violator, even after he or she may have been fired or forced to resign from the institution where the infraction occurred. The reason it is applied, according to Yeager, is to penalize a primary actor.
On some occasions, there hasn't been enough evidence to do that to the coach, even in the face of serious violations.
"The Michigan basketball case, per se, there was nothing on Steve Fisher [now head coach at San Diego State], so there was no strict liability that he was involved with," Yeager said regarding Fisher's never receiving a show-cause. "It's always been the case that it has been used when someone is involved in major violations."
Yeager said there is a large segment of the NCAA membership that believes that anyone found guilty of violating NCAA rules should "never come back."
A permanent ban, Yeager said, is not "something the committee of infractions has looked at, although we have disassociated some boosters on a permanent status."
Getting a show-cause can come down to whether a coach or administrator willingly committed the violations without the knowledge of anyone at the institution, whether the accused cooperated with the investigation or inhibited it, and whether he or she lied.
Bozeman has said on numerous occasions that the way he got the Cal job might have had a greater effect than his show-cause penalty on keeping him from being hired. Then an assistant coach, Bozeman replaced former coach Lou Campanelli in midseason in what was perceived at the time as a mutiny. Campanelli had friends in the business who privately weren't -- and still aren't -- fans of Bozeman.
Bozeman said he told officials at one school that interviewed him that he was the last person they had to worry about breaking the rules.
"They didn't hire me, and then the guy they hired had NCAA violations," Bozeman said. "There's a stigma and time heals it, but for me it was a bit different because the Campanelli thing played into a lot of it."
Bozeman's hiring at Morgan State is perfect for him. He's back in his native Baltimore/D.C. area after the Cal implosion, so he doesn't have to move. He has strong ties in the area, and he takes over a program that is at the bottom of the MEAC and has no expectations.
"It was the right time, the right situation," Bozeman said. "People always say the first hire is the toughest one. I know that if I didn't have the violation, then I wouldn't be at a situation [like] Morgan. My experience speaks for itself, but if Morgan didn't have the season it had, I wouldn't be here, either."
Bozeman posted an on-court record of 63-36 at Cal, along with three NCAA appearances and a 2-3 NCAA Tournament record (including a Sweet 16 appearance in 1993). Bozeman's official record stands at 35-63 after violations-related forfeits and the vacating of one NCAA game are accounted for.
Morgan State finished 4-26 overall in 2005-06 (4-14 in the MEAC). Coincidentally, the team's nickname is the Golden Bears, the same as Cal's.
"I'm just thankful for the opportunity, because people told me it would never happen," Bozeman said.
After O'Brien was tagged with a show-cause penalty of five years, he said he wouldn't put a school through the process of hiring him. Bliss said something similar, saying he didn't deserve to be back in college coaching after the scandal at Baylor.
Bozeman was looking, but the untouchable label stuck. Now 42, Bozeman said his show-cause ended up being nearly 10 years because the investigation delayed the start for a year after he was fired and it took him another year after it had expired to get a job.
"I'm not speaking with any bitterness in my heart," Bozeman said. "I don't have any, and I'm just moving on. But the show-cause is tough, because people do treat you differently."
Which is exactly what the infractions committee is attempting to achieve when it penalizes violators with a show-cause tag.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.