Nearly five months later, the grave is still little more than bare dirt. "Look for the flag," an official of the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery says, but the miniature American flag that marks the Suitland, Md., burial plot of Len Bias has long since been bleached almost beyond recognition. It is a toy flag, incongruous as a landmark. It is scarcely higher than one's shoe tops.
The site is a knoll overlooking forested valleys that are flush with autumn color. In contrast the grave itself is stark and plain. A few sprigs of crabgrass claw the empty ground. Two red silk flowers provide the only real color.
"Every day people come by," the official says later. "Policemen, congressmen, students, alumni and, of course, his parents. They're here all the time. Even some of the professional players have been around. Moses Malone visited once. John Thompson came by a couple of times."
There is no headstone, only a square of plastic-shielded paper three inches across. It has lines marked NAME and DATE. The name reads LEN BIAS. There is no date. A message reads: "This temporary marker is another of our friendly services. Please inquire at office about permanent markers."
November 10, 1986
That, for now, is the full epitaph of former University of Maryland basketball star Leonard Bias, who was selected by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA draft on June 17 and died two days later of cocaine intoxication.
"I know the family is discussing a tremendous monument to him," says the cemetery official, a vice-president whose name turns out to be Frank Bias, though he and Len's family are not related. He pauses. "But it hasn't materialized yet." Such monuments are said to be too expensive for Len Bias's parents, James and Lonise, to afford, at least at the moment. Their son died without life insurance or any written basketball or endorsement contracts. His financial legacy was a $21,000 debt, from two loans. His parents are now paying that off.
More than 10,000 people showed up at Cole Field House on the University of Maryland campus for a memorial tribute to Len Bias in June. They stood and cheered for a full three minutes. Jesse Jackson spoke. State flags flew at half-staff outside the arena. Many of the mourners cried, among them Charles (Lefty) Driesell, Maryland's longtime basketball coach.
On the morning of Oct. 29, about 200 reporters and cameramen were gathered at one end of Cole, waiting only for Lefty. An official announcement was due, a long-awaited announcement. The air was charged. Then, at the far end of the arena, Driesell entered. He is a big and rather awkward man, hard to miss. Driesell passed the foul line and mid-court and then the other foul line. He got to the lectern and tried to break the tension. "Looks like we have a pretty good crowd here," he said with a smile. "Maybe we should have charged admission."
Lefty said he was resigning. That made it sound better. Everyone knew he had been forced out, handed an assistant athletic director's job as a salve, but at a good price: $888,000 for eight years. Driesell spoke for a moment about his 17 years and 348 victories at the university and said the school had felt it was time for a change. That was all. He put his arms around his wife of 35 years, Joyce, and one of his two daughters and walked back down the floor. Some of the onlookers, students and athletic department staff, began to applaud. Driesell passed the midcourt line, the foul line, and then he was gone.
Lives have changed since Len Bias died. A university has lost an athletic director and a basketball coach. A family (see box, page 80) has tried to cope. Educators, students, attorneys and the media have all debated what it means, who's to blame, what really happened. Brian Lee Tribble, a friend of Len Bias's, may yet go to prison over his pal's death. The controversy has not ended.
At Maryland, the students haven't forgotten Bias. The campus bookstore sells No. 34 basketball jerseys in his memory and donates the money to a Len Bias charity fund. "We're sold out of the bigger sizes right now," says Charles Dukes, the bookstore's associate director. "The fashion is to wear them large, especially among the girls."
But to visit Cole Field House on the morning of Driesell's resignation is to see no memorial banners, no plaques, no real Len Bias jerseys in glass cases. Outside the basketball offices is a bulletin board dedicated solely to academic information. On it, Driesell had posted pages and pages of data about his teams' graduation rates and his former players' successes in life.
Driesell lost any real chance of keeping his job in that blinding flash of events following Bias's death. Terry Long and David Gregg, teammates and roommates of Bias's, were alleged to have snorted cocaine across the table from Bias. Four players—Bias, Long, Jeff Baxter and Tom (Speedy) Jones—were found to have been academically dismissed from school after the spring semester. Bias after flunking, or withdrawing from, all five of his courses. Freshman center Tony Massenburg was caught cheating on a final exam and was suspended from school for the fall semester.
Driesell reportedly participated in a cover-up of sorts on the morning of Bias's death by telling an assistant coach to clean up the room in which Bias had taken his fatal dose of drugs.
And so Driesell had to watch helplessly as a grand jury, two university task forces, scores of reporters and an internal investigation initiated by Maryland's chancellor, John Slaughter, all rifled through his career and the school's athletic policies. It was humiliating. Driesell wanted to fight back. His attorneys said no. All Lefty could do was put up papers on a bulletin board.
He had to read the words of James Bias, words that have stuck in the University of Maryland conscience for months. Bias told The Washington Post that Maryland had been "negligent" in handling his son, and said that the school often exploits its athletes by steering them into easy courses and by emphasizing performance on the field instead of in the classroom. "When they're recruiting these players, they promise them anything, and later the kids find out it's all athletics and Basket Weaving 101," James Bias said. He said his son had been used primarily to make money for the university, which last year took in $1.75 million of its $7.5 million in athletic revenues from the basketball program.
The charges were harsh, and it was quite clear that Bias was laying most of them at the feet of Driesell. When asked specifically about his son's former coach, James Bias replied, "Any statement I could make would be tantamount to a grain of sand compared to what he can find examining himself."
It wasn't supposed to happen this way, not to Lefty, not with all his powerful friends. He was supposed to be the kingpin of Maryland athletics, pulling strings, afraid of no one, able to step into the worst of trouble and come out with clean shoes. He had done it before, often. But not this time.
Driesell is a born-again Christian. He has examined himself. He honestly believes that the kids he has recruited have been good and that Maryland has served them well. "You don't judge a program on one semester," he says. "You judge it by what happens over 17 years."
To visit him a week before his resignation was to see his feistiness and frustration. Pinned outside his door was a newspaper clipping reporting that 30% of all college students will use cocaine at least once before they graduate. More men will try it than women, the clipping said. It seemed to be Driesell's way of saying that Maryland is not alone.
Driesell himself wasn't talking, he said over and over. "You all gonna do a hatchet job on me," he said half a dozen times. He argued the point so long he finally got to gabbing and chuckling and eventually started diagramming high school football plays on a chalkboard. Lon Babby, one of his attorneys, called. "No, don't worry, I haven't said anything" Driesell assured him.
"I'm going fishin' tomorrow," was his only statement about the future.
The scene of the Len Bias tragedy last June 19 was Washington Hall. It is a redbrick dormitory with white pillars. Visiting it now, one is aware of a startling irony. The building sits in a sort of pentangle of dorms that face not a common greensward, but what looks like a city playground. Every day, Len Bias, student, stepped out of his dorm room into an expanse of five full-sized paved basketball courts.
"Come on in," offers Dave Dickerson through the window of suite 1103. Dickerson is a sophomore forward at Maryland. He played behind Len Bias last season. He now lives in the suite where Bias took the fatal cocaine.
The suite's living room is tiny, perhaps 12 feet across, with desks in the corners. There are four bedrooms off the living room. Dickerson is sitting in the room in which Bias and three others allegedly took cocaine early on the morning of June 19, and he is remembering his former teammate, the one known to friends as Frosty. "I knew I was playing behind a great player," says Dickerson. "I looked up to him as a role model. He was the leader of the team. You know, you talk about excitement—Michael Jordan didn't have anything on Len Bias.
"I think back, and I've seen him do some incredible things," Dickerson continues, shaking his head. "Incredible...." His voice trails off.
Four months of work by a Prince George's County grand jury has helped fill in some of the details of what happened in suite 1103 on the morning of June 19. As has been recounted before, Bias returned to College Park the evening of June 18 from the two most exciting days of his life. He had gone to New York for the NBA draft, then on to Boston, where his agent, Lee Fentress had come to a handshake agreement on a $1.6 million, five-year endorsement contract for Bias with Reebok shoes.
Bias left his dorm sometime after midnight and met Tribble, who is 24. Specifics of the next few hours are fuzzy, but include two stops at a liquor store. A "mystery woman," whose identity investigators say they still do not know, traveled with Bias and Tribble for almost two hours. Tribble, however, told SI that he knows her whereabouts and promises she will be at his trial.
At about 3 a.m., Bias and Tribble joined Long and Gregg back in suite 1103. A grand jury source confirmed that Long and Gregg, who had cocaine-possession charges against them dropped last month after cooperating in the case, testified that about half a coffee cup of cocaine was piled on a mirror on a table. Long and Gregg are said to have told the grand jurors that Tribble said the cocaine was the last of his stash, but that he expected a new supply in the next day.
The grand jury source confirmed that Long and Gregg continued the story this way: The four friends began snorting the cocaine with cut plastic straws while they sat around the table and talked. All had used cocaine before, including Bias, who had tried it half a dozen times, the source confirmed.
Bias was snorting large quantities. The others in the room warned him to be careful, but the 6'8" Bias continued. As dawn neared, Bias suddenly went into a seizure. He lost consciousness, then regained it. He suffered a second seizure and a third. After the third seizure, Bias did not regain consciousness. Long tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but to no avail. At 6:32 a.m., Tribble dialed 911 for paramedics and an ambulance. Bias could not be saved. He was pronounced dead at 8:50 a.m. at nearby Leland Memorial Hospital. Sometime after 6:32 a.m. and before the ambulance arrived, Long and Gregg began clearing the room of evidence, according to their reported grand jury testimony, and Tribble slipped the remaining cocaine into his pocket.
Law enforcement officials have provided other details of the case. Police have said they later found a clear, palm-sized bag of cocaine under the dashboard of Bias's car and assorted drug paraphernalia in a dumpster behind the dorm. These included cut straws, one of which contained cocaine residue. Police said they had a harder time finding anyone willing to talk. Driesell, Fentress and Bias's and Gregg's high school coach, Bob Wagner, all came under suspicion by law enforcement authorities for possibly advising players not to cooperate. All three eventually were cleared by the grand jury.
Prince George's County state's attorney Arthur Marshall Jr. was on vacation the day Bias died, but came into the case when he returned to work. "The only reason we got involved," he says, "was because the police came in and told us, 'We can't get any information. Nobody'll talk to us.' Here the kids are all lying, the firemen are telling us different things about evidence being moved while they're doing resuscitation on a youngster on the floor. Everybody is denying drugs being involved. It just didn't seem normal to me."
So ended any possibility that the Bias case might quietly fade away. Marshall came in with elbows high, on the attack. From day one he talked freely to reporters and fired off charges with what some of his professional peers felt was recklessness. He became the most vocal critic of the university's athletic department and of Driesell.
Marshall, 55, is a stern-looking man with a fast, businesslike way of speaking. He once had a bumper sticker over his door that read: THE RAT RACE IS OVER, THE RATS WON. He is intense and opinionated.
The Bias case intrigued him. He had earned his law degree at Georgetown and put one son through Maryland. His other son, whom he says he hasn't seen in some time, has a history of drug problems and was once convicted on a breaking-and-entering charge. Marshall could not let the Bias case pass unnoticed.
And so he spoke out. He chastised Driesell for blocking the investigation, questioned the fact that Fentress had served as agent for both Lefty and Bias, said he had information that nearly half of Maryland's men's basketball team had used drugs "as a consistent matter." If that weren't enough, a grand jury witness suggested a Maryland player might have tried to shave points on at least one occasion—a possibility Marshall later discounted.
His open manner and doggedness seemed refreshing, but soon Marshall became controversial. James and Lonise Bias complained that a "proliferation of innuendo" and "constant leaking" of unsubstantiated information from the prosecutor's office was maligning the reputation of their son. Tribble's lawyer, Thomas Morrow, said that the prosecutor had "blown this thing up like the Bruno Hauptmann case," and rival politicians called Marshall's probe a fishing expedition designed to help him win renomination for his seventh straight term in office. In September, Marshall lost the Democratic primary by 2,000 votes.
Early on, Marshall had raised the possibility that Driesell, Fentress and Wagner might be indicted for obstruction of justice. "I certainly was not looking for an indictment," he insists now. But it is a fact that Driesell asked assistant coach Oliver Purnell to clean up Bias's dorm room on the morning of June 19.
Driesell, who agreed to talk to SI after his resignation, says he got a call from Fentress in his office that morning. "Put yourself in my position," Driesell says. "He is Leonard Bias's attorney, and he had just negotiated my contract with the university before that, so he's my attorney, too." Driesell says he told Fentress that Bias had died and that "I had heard at the hospital that he might have been fooling with some cocaine." Driesell claims Fentress "was hysterical" at hearing this.
"He says, 'Quick, tell an assistant coach or someone to go over there and clean up the room,' " Driesell says. So Driesell shut the door to Purnell's office and told his assistant, "Lee said go clean up the room."
Purnell never did so. "Oliver started, I guess, walking over to clean up the room, and he gets to thinking that ain't the thing to do," says Driesell. "I didn't even think about it because here's a lawyer telling me what to do. The guy's supposed to be a lawyer."
Fentress confirms this account, but says his offhand remark to clean the room was made at an emotional moment and without consideration of the implications.
Wagner, meanwhile, admitted to reporters that he told Gregg to clean up suite 1103, but says he meant only that the room should be tidied up for visitors. Gregg and Long, whom the police couldn't locate during the day after Bias's death, spent the night of June 19 at Wagner's home, according to Marshall.
Marshall says he presented the grand jurors with the option of indicting Driesell, Fentress and Wagner. The grand jury voted not to indict any of the three. "What their reasons were I can't say," says Marshall. "I'd have to assume one was that they didn't feel anybody acted on [the advice], which really has nothing to do with it, but you know juries—they do what they want. And I think they felt that the reason for giving such advice was concern for the welfare of the young men." Marshall himself seems to have mellowed on this point. He says he doesn't think any of the three was motivated by evil intent, and "any crime needs evil intent."
"It was wrong," Marshall emphasizes. "Giving advice like that is out and out wrong. It's like a lot of other things in this world that we do and don't become criminals for, but they're wrong." Marshall also says Driesell knew about regular drug use by one player on his team—not Bias—and did nothing other than order the player to take a drug test.
Could Marshall conceivably, by pushing harder, have gotten an indictment of Driesell? Well, yes, he claims. "But do I think 12 jurors would have convicted any of the three? No."
Marshall goes one step further. "When you go after a king, you better be able to bring him down," he says. "And Lefty, he sure is a king."
Brian Tribble is a handsome young man, voted most attractive in his high school senior class a few years back. But as he talks of his present predicament, his voice betrays a hard, city-wise, slightly embittered edge. " 'Bias didn't bring it [the cocaine] in the room,' " he says mockingly. " 'Bias, he never did anything.' " He pauses. "S——."
Tribble is sitting in the living room of his parents' Washington home. Next to him is a shelf crammed with his old youth-league basketball trophies. "Let's put it like this," he says. "If I get any type of [jail time]...then all the dirt will be out 'cause I'm gonna try to cash in on everything I know. I know some pretty interesting stuff. The trial won't be the half of it. Lot of people will have sad faces."
Tribble will go on trial Nov. 17 in Prince George's County court on felony charges of cocaine possession and distribution, and obstruction of justice. If convicted, he would face, as a first-time drug offender, roughly two years in prison.
Tribble does not discuss the events of June 19. But he rhetorically poses the question of who's to blame when someone in a group dies from cocaine supplied by another member of the group. "Would you feel like you killed him?" he asks. "There's plenty of people out there who use drugs. Plenty. If they get high and they die, I don't feel like I killed them. They're grown people."
At 5'9", Tribble stands nearly a foot shorter than his late friend. The two first met at Cole Field House during a pickup basketball game. Both were high school students, Tribble a senior, Bias a sophomore. In college they ran together a lot. They went to Washington nightclubs together. Tribble spent much of his time at Bias's dorm. Today, says Tribble, he is 18 credits shy of a Maryland degree.
Tribble scrimmaged with a now-defunct junior varsity team while at Maryland, but his dreams of basketball glory ended there. After a 1982 motorcycle accident he sued the other driver for $1 million, claiming in part the loss of future income from a "career in professional basketball." Tribble received a $10,000 settlement and used part of the money, he says, to make a down payment on a used Mercedes-Benz 450SL.
That car, and the thick gold chains he wore, made some of Bias's other friends suspicious of Tribble, whose furniture refinishing business reportedly yielded only modest income. He has at least one arrest, for shoplifting, and, according to prosecutors, was placed on probation.
Tribble's mother, Loretta, says, without offering evidence, that police and prosecutors have bribed witnesses in the Bias case and concocted stories linking her son to murders, robberies and big dope dealers.
Meanwhile, Brian Tribble poses what may be the most salient question raised by the Bias controversy: Who bears responsibility for the actions of a 22-year-old college athlete?
"If he can whip North Carolina by his-self almost," Tribble says, "how you figure he can't think in life? So if he's doing what he wants, I don't see how I would feel bad. If I were to die, do you think all this would have happened? They'd say, 'Drug addict. God, he's stupid.' "
In recent years the University of Maryland has been rising steadily toward the ranks of the nation's better public universities. Average SAT scores at the school have risen 65 points (to a still modest 1,025) in the last five years. Scholarship money has increased to more than $40 million, of which less than $2 million goes to athletes. Thirteen of the school's academic departments are rated in the top 20 (public universities) in the nation by the National Science Foundation.
But that progress has been overshadowed by publicity surrounding the Bias controversy. For weeks and months those on the Maryland campus have pleaded for an end to what they consider persecution of the school. "The media have kept this in the forefront longer than the death of seven astronauts played," complains Tom Fields, the school's chief athletic fund-raiser.
"It's like athletics is suddenly a cancer," says Terrapin senior Dennis Cullinane, a steeplechaser on the school's track team. "A few basketball players screw up and all of a sudden people think every Maryland athlete is flunking out and getting all these special favors. That's totally wrong."
Lefty Driesell's travails began when he started recruiting what one Maryland athletic department official calls "academically marginal players who were at the bottom of the margin." It had become tough to attract the brighter kids, what with all the Dukes and George-towns around, so Lefty began grabbing the best players he could squeak through the admissions office. Sometimes the squeaking was awfully loud, and always admissions people fought him. But usually Lefty won, just as his teams did on the court.
Fifteen of the 19 freshmen Driesell brought in from 1980 to '85 did not meet the university's minimum admissions standards. Their combined SAT average of 670 was 100 points below that of Terrapin football recruits and some 355 points under the university-wide average. "You could see this coming," says one longtime athletic department source. "He kept going lower and lower on the graph. I remember a few years back some of us were sitting around saying, 'This is his worst group yet.' You could see that it was going to blow up in his face."
Blow up it did. In late June the academic counselor for the team, Wendy Whittemore, quit, telling The Washington Post that she felt education is not a top priority for Driesell. She said players generally missed 35% to 40% of their classes during the season, and that Driesell paid lip service to their academic needs. It was later learned that for the spring semester only two Maryland players had earned so much as a C average.
These were not aberrations, either: In the fall of 1984, Driesell's team had earned a collective 1.48 GPA—just over D+. Overall, only four Maryland basketball players in the last 15 years have had a B average for an entire academic year. "When I was there, it just didn't seem like there was enough discipline, enough emphasis on guiding you the right way," says former Terp basketball guard Steve Rivers, who graduated in 1984 and now teaches junior high school in New York City. "It was always, 'Let's give him such-and-such, an easy class, to get him through right now.' "
Driesell's academic counselors, who were under athletic department control—which is to say very little—were part of the problem. Whittemore's predecessor, Larry Roper, who also quit, at least partly in frustration over Driesell's approach to academics, admits he should have stood up more to the coach. Another ex-counselor complains that "there weren't any guidelines when it came to academics," yet admits steering basketball players into somewhat easier courses.
To talk with former counselors is to hear Driesell described as a man of good intentions who told his athletes to go to class, told them to study, but never did anything when they didn't. After a while, the players didn't take him seriously. More than one source close to Driesell's team, in fact, will tell you that some of his players just plain didn't like Lefty. He was too inconsistent in dealing with them, too volatile.
Driesell would contest all of that. He took a secret poll of his players in October. Handed them slips of paper, told them to write down whether or not he should stay. He says they gave him a vote of confidence. "The students, their [campus newspaper] poll was for me," said Driesell. "The players are for me. Glenn Brenner [a local TV sportscaster] had a poll and they were for me."
But his fate was not in public hands. It was in Chancellor Slaughter's hands, or more precisely his lap, where the entire Maryland athletic mess landed. Slaughter had long considered Driesell a friend, but he knew all too well that the coach had become a liability to the university. Here was the school square in the public eye, attacking all its problems with task forces and policy changes, saying it was going to become a model of athletic integrity and foresight for the nation—and there was Driesell, center of the storm, still claiming that nothing wrong had ever happened. He had to go.
His departure was the second within a month at the university. Athletic director Dick Dull had stepped down in early October, emotionally and physically burned out from the daily pressures of the Bias controversy. He, too, had been a basically good man.
Dull, at least, had admitted making mistakes, admitted bearing some of the responsibility for an athletic department without any particular purpose or philosophy other than to win games and make enough money to keep afloat. "I'm one of the fortunate ones now because I've relieved myself of this agony," said Dull after resigning.
The sad part of Driesell's story is that he had proved he could win with true student-athletes. In his nine successful years at Davidson, 98% of his players had graduated and 22 of them had gone on to become doctors or lawyers. His Maryland teams had included Len Elmore, now at Harvard Law School, and Tom McMillen, a former Rhodes scholar who played 11 years in the NBA and went into Tuesday's elections as the Democratic candidate for Congress from Maryland's Fourth District. Overall, Driesell's 56% graduation rate at College Park still exceeds the university-wide rate of 41%.
To be fair, one must judge Driesell with some perspective. Consider the fact that only 12 of some 30 black players given scholarships by Driesell in his 17 years at Maryland have graduated. Deplorable though it is, that 40% graduation rate is not out of line. Only 27.3% of all black athletes at Maryland graduate within five years, and just 22% of the school's total black student population. Nationwide, the figures aren't much better.
Driesell also got mixed signals from the university about its commitment to academics. For one thing, Slaughter himself, the chairman of the NCAA Presidents Commission, an organization supposedly dedicated to the correction of abuses in intercollegiate athletics, had intervened in admissions decisions on Driesell's behalf. Slaughter admitted as much to the Baltimore Sun last summer. He said he had done so for Driesell and for football coach Bobby Ross in several cases involving academically suspect students. He admitted that it was a mistake.
In one instance in 1983, Slaughter had, at Driesell's request, asked the director of a remedial studies program to accept Terry Long into his curriculum. The director reluctantly did so and Long, who had previously been rejected by the admissions office, was given a full basketball scholarship. Long has since flunked out of school twice and been readmitted both times. A condition of his readmission last summer was that he never play basketball for Maryland again.
Just how was Driesell to interpret Slaughter's involvement? And what message was he being sent about his academic record when he was given a new 10-year contract (five years as coach, five as assistant athletic director) in 1984—a contract that was renegotiated up by Dull last year? Dull says Driesell had earned such a long-term commitment, because in his tenure at the school, "Maryland had never been on probation, its basketball program had a high respect level, and Lefty had passed up other opportunities to go to other institutions." Driesell might well have assumed from all this that he was doing something right. Or at least nothing wrong.
John Slaughter, 52, is a thoughtful man with a warm, hearty laugh. "It was encouraging to me that before I walked down the hallway with him to resign," says Dull, "that he embraced me and we talked about our friendship continuing after this situation has passed."
Slaughter, who has a Ph.D. in engineering, has brought an analytical mind to the task of restoring his university's academic integrity. He judged Driesell on what seemed to be properly measured facts. He had reprimanded him in 1983, when Driesell allegedly made harassing phone calls to a female student who had accused one of the Maryland basketball players of sexual assault. Everyone, from the campus women's center to the school paper to the university's legal aid attorney, had demanded Driesell's head on that one. (Driesell admits calling the woman three times, but denies having tried to intimidate her.)
Slaughter held firm then. "One of the things I'm very fortunate about is that I have a tremendous sense of self-confidence," he says. "It doesn't bother me much that there might be a lot of people who disagree with me."
There generally aren't—Slaughter is admired as an educator. But both he and his reputation have been strained by the Bias case. "It's been all-consuming," he says. "I don't think I've spent more than two hours on any other issue at one sitting since June 19."
Among other steps, Slaughter appointed a task force on campus drug use, which has helped put Bias's drug involvement in perspective. The group found that 40.6% of Maryland's undergraduates surveyed said they had used marijuana at least once in the last year and 20.1% said they had used cocaine during that time. It also learned that the university spends only $17,000 a year of its $221 million budget on drug education.
A task force on academics formed by Slaughter returned last month with sweeping criticisms of the athletic department and 60 recommendations for reforming it. These include tougher admission and eligibility standards for Maryland athletes and an improved academic counseling system removed from athletic department control. Slaughter says that all of the recommendations, in some form or other, will be in place by next fall. Already in effect at Maryland are new, stricter drug-testing procedures designed to prevent the switching and altering of samples said to have gone on last year, when the testing of athletes was introduced. Testing at Maryland now extends to anabolic steroids, amphetamines, and other drugs, including cocaine and marijuana.
In specific response to the basketball team's academic problems, Slaughter pushed back the start of the season from Nov. 28 to Dec. 27 and the opening of practice from Oct. 15 to last Saturday. New coach Bob Wade, named last Thursday, will have to limit practice time to 18 hours a week instead of the customary 25. He will be lucky if his team goes much above .500 this season.
Clearly, Slaughter has dedicated himself to a course of relatively moderate reforms rather than more sweeping and dramatic steps. He and the academic task force both considered, briefly, the Tulane option: shutting the basketball program down completely. But they considered such a step too severe. Slaughter says that if basketball revenues vanished, so would several of the university's 16 nonrevenue sports programs. He does not accept that trade-off. He also says he considers top-rate Division I-A teams crucial in bringing together on campus the university's 38,639 students, nearly 80% of whom are commuters.
Slaughter has his own personal perspective on several aspects of college sports. He empathizes with athletes who are blamed for failing to graduate in four years, having taken 5½ years himself to earn an undergraduate degree from Kansas State. Slaughter took so long because he had to catch up from the slow, vocational track he had been assigned to in high school. "In those days no one had ever heard of a black engineer," he says. "Advisors didn't tell me I needed to take things like physics and chemistry, a lot of mathematics.... Instead I spent two years learning how to repair radios and television sets." As a result, Slaughter is sensitive to the charges that some Maryland athletes have been steered into easy courses to remain eligible.
On the other hand, as one of the most highly regarded black academicians in the country. Slaughter is reluctant to advocate overly rigid entrance standards—or rule out special tutoring and developmental programs—that might limit the access many minority students have to a college education. It is worth noting that Maryland bends its admissions requirements for about 200 students each year. but fewer than 50 of them are athletes.
It might be of consolation to Slaughter to know that Maryland has been down this twisting, bumpy road before. Until the mid-1950s, Maryland had the reputation of being a jock school. Football coach—turned—university president Curley Byrd built so powerful an athletic program in the 1940s and early '50s that university historian George Callcott says, "I think you can say this: It was football more than anything else that put the University of Maryland on the map and made it feel like it was a big-time institution."
In 1954, however, a scathing review of the school by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools threatened Maryland's accreditation. The report pictured Byrd as a dictator and said athletics at the school were out of control. It said—does this sound familiar?—Maryland was passing athletes who were not attending classes, awarding scholarships to people who were unqualified for admission and looking the other way when accusations were brought. "It was so very much like the situation here now," says Callcott. "Far from enhancing the reputation of the institution, the athletic department became a threat to it." The university survived by enacting major academic reforms.
Which is what it must push forward with now. "Where our reputation has been hurt is with those people who don't know anything about the University of Maryland except as a result of what they've read or heard about the Len Bias case," says Dull. "We have a great, great task ahead of us to restore confidence in the institution among those people. The road back, I'm afraid, is not a short one."
Slaughter certainly knows that. He considered himself a good friend of Len Bias's, and suffered as much as anyone over the young man's death. He saw the nation go into an antidrug frenzy as a consequence of the tragedy, and knows that the burden on his university remains extremely heavy.
"One of the things I've found it necessary to do is remember the poem If, by Rudyard Kipling," says Slaughter. " 'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,/If you can-trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too'; I say that to myself a lot of times."