By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
12:39 PM EST, January 11, 2012
A series of meetings today at Morgan State will likely determine the future of men's basketball coach Todd Bozeman.
They also might determine the future of the program.
Bozeman, who was put on paid administrative leave Sunday night following an incident during his team's win at South Carolina State on Saturday, is expected to meet with a three-person panel empowered to find out exactly what happened between the 48-year-old coach and senior guard Larry Bastfield.
After calling a timeout late in the game, Bozeman said that he made "accidental contact" with Bastfield as he came to the team's bench. South Carolina State president George E. Cooper later accused Bozeman of punching Bastfield in the face, a charge that has been denied by the Bears coach and his point guard.
A Morgan State spokesman said Tuesday that university president David Wilson will make a determination about Bozeman's status after the panel, which includes athletic director Floyd Kerr, concludes its investigation. It is not known whether a decision will be reached today.
Bozeman's attorney, South Carolina-based Ricky Lefft, said Tuesday night that he planned to accompany Bozeman to the meeting. Lefft said Monday that Morgan State had violated Bozeman's contract and university policy for senior staff members by suspending him for Monday night's game at Savannah State before allowing the coach to appeal the action.
The Bears lost the game, 57-55, the latest in a stretch of narrow defeats that have left Morgan State with a disappointing 3-10 record. In six years under Bozeman, the program has gone from one of the worst in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to a league power that twice reached the NCAA Tournament and once was invited to the NIT.
A South Carolina State spokeswoman said Monday that Cooper will not talk about the incident or the charge he leveled against Bozeman. Without identifying himself, Cooper confronted Bozeman immediately after the game and told him he was going to call the authorities. Bozeman gave him Kerr's number.
Cooper is believed to have called campus police in Orangeburg, S.C. and had two officers meet Bastfield at the bus, asking him if he wanted to press charges. Bastfield said in a telephone interview with The Sun on Sunday night that he "exaggerated" his reaction to the contact with Bozeman and said he told police that his coach accidentally hit him in the chest.
Campus police have referred all calls regarding the incident to Cooper's office.
There is a tape of the incident, but Morgan State spokesman Clinton Coleman said it is "totally inconclusive" because a South Carolina State student walked between the camera and the bench right at the moment Bozeman made contact that he said was "like bumping into someone coming around the corner".
Bozeman's reputation - and his coaching future - hangs on Morgan State's decision.
Hired in 2006, Bozeman had been away from college coaching for a decade after being fired by Cal for breaking NCAA rules. The NCAA had placed an eight-year show-cause order on Bozeman, meaning that any school that hired him during that time period would be subject to sanctions similar to those placed on Cal.
Even with the success he has had at Morgan State, which also included a victory over Maryland, Bozeman has been unable to get a better job. He couldn't even get an interview for the opening last spring at Towson, which hired Pitt assistant coach Pat Skerry.
Lefft said that even if Bozeman is reinstated, his reputation has been further damaged by the accusation.
There is some irony in the fact that Bozeman's career is now clouded over an allegation of him assaulting a player. His career took off in 1992 when as an assistant at Cal, a 29-year-old Bozeman was promoted to head coach when Lou Campanelli was fired for verbally harassing his players.
Campanelli and several of his fellow coaches accused Bozeman of telling the players to complain to Cal athletic director Bob Bockrath, and said he didn't come to Campanelli's defense during the course of the investigation. Bozeman took a team led by Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray to the Sweet 16 that season, with an upset of then two-time defending national champion Duke in the second round.
Less than four years later, Bozeman was fired for giving $30,000 to the family of one of his recruits. During his second year at Morgan State, Bozeman was charged with physically and verbally assaulting a female worker at a restaurant in Longwood, Va. after a food order for the team's return trip was filled incorrectly. The charges were later dropped when Bozeman apologized to the woman and made an out of court settlement.
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