Alameda County Superior Court is not where Todd Bozeman has been
accustomed to making a name for himself. For the past 3 1/2
years his province was Pete Newell Court, in Harmon Gym on the
campus of the University of California at Berkeley, where the
rosters of his Golden Bears basketball teams were studded with
as much young talent as any in the land.
But last Friday morning Bozeman stood instead before a judge in
an Oakland courtroom, at a hearing to determine whether a
temporary restraining order, issued against him at the request
of a former Cal undergraduate, should be dropped or made
permanent. In May, Bozeman had given the 22-year-old ex-student,
Suzanne Wilson, $2,000 to sink into an "investment club" called
Friends Helping Friends. But soon afterward Bozeman was among
scores of Bay Area residents who learned with alarm that county
prosecutors considered Friends Helping Friends to be an illegal
Bozeman says he lent the money to Wilson to help her pay for law
school; she says that there was no loan, that he invested in the
scheme and called to cash out. She also says he continued to
call her, lacing his conversations with sexual references, a
charge Bozeman denies. On Aug. 6 he showed up at her workplace
on campus and pressed her for the money. She says he threatened
her; he says he only threatened to turn her in to the police.
Two days before Friday's court appearance another get-rich-quick
scheme had collapsed of its own rickety contradictions. With the
NCAA enforcement staff expected soon to deliver an official
letter of inquiry detailing alleged recruiting violations, Cal
officials asked for and got Bozeman's resignation as coach. His
departure followed nearly 43 months of turmoil and turnover in
the basketball program at the gemstone of California's
university system. Over that time there unfolded a Theodore
Dreiser story updated for our times, a tale of blind striving,
greed, betrayal and comeuppance, involving not only the coach
but also players and parents. There is a featured role for the
pestilence of the moment in college athletics, the professional
sports agent. And there might even be vindication, albeit of a
hollow kind, for the man Bozeman replaced, Lou Campanelli.
September 8, 1996
Tom Gardner, the father of guard Jelani Gardner, who has since
transferred from Cal to Pepperdine, has told the NCAA that
Bozeman promised him and his wife, Linda, $15,000 a year so they
might travel to follow their son's college career. Further, Tom
and Linda say that Bozeman, through an intermediary, arranged
for most of that money to be delivered. The Gardners secretly
taped a conversation between themselves and Bozeman in which the
cash is discussed, and they have supplied the tape to NCAA
Bozeman, 32, says he did nothing wrong. But what is on that tape
more than anything else--more than the seven Golden Bears
players who transferred out over the last 3 1/2 years; more than
the disciplinary actions against players and the NCAA probes
that had addled the program since he took over; more than
Friday's bizarre court hearing, in which judge Dawn Girard
postponed the case until Sept. 5, leaving the restraining order
in place--accounted for Bozeman's being shown the door last
week, in spite of his 63-35 record, three NCAA tournament
appearances in four years and three years remaining on a
$350,000-a-year package. (Cal will pay him his base salary
through the coming season.)
With its move last week Cal demonstrated that at Berkeley,
winning isn't quite everything--at least not yet. "The truth is,
you don't have to cheat here to keep your job," says Pete
Newell, the Hall of Famer who in 1959 coached the Bears to their
lone NCAA title. "You may have momentary glory, but in the long
run it hurts you more. See, at Cal, the alums don't want a
national championship every year, or even every decade. They
want to be proud."
There isn't much to be proud of there now. Last week's events
opened a window on player procurement in college basketball
today, revealing a state of affairs that extends well beyond
Berkeley. And they hint at what may be the real shame of the
game. One prominent players agent told SI recently, "If a major
football school really wants someone, it can almost always find
a booster to FedEx $10,000 or $15,000 to that player. But
basketball isn't run by boosters. Basketball is run by agents."
Over the past decade no quality better characterized Bozeman's
professional life than speed. He was working as a Federal
Express deliveryman and assistant high school coach in 1988 when
he quit to become a $9,000-a-year graduate assistant at George
Mason. Within two months he had moved to New Orleans, where
Tulane was bringing back basketball after a point-shaving
scandal had shut down its program for four seasons. He was 24,
the youngest assistant coach in the game.
"You goin' too fast," Tulane coach Perry Clark would tell his
"Ain't got no ticket, man," Bozeman would reply, gunning the
engine of his ambition.
By 1991 he had lit out for Berkeley, which sits hard by Oakland,
then home to point guard Jason Kidd, the most prized recruit in
the high school class of '92. Kidd announced at the end of his
junior year that he had eliminated the Bears from consideration,
and the rest of the Cal coaches gave up on him. But Bozeman
persisted. When Kidd chose the Bears during the early-signing
period that fall, no one was more shocked than Bozeman's boss,
Kidd was the centerpiece of a preternaturally talented but
tenderfoot 1992-93 Cal team. On Jan. 24 the Bears drubbed UCLA
by 22 points in Pauley Pavilion. But they also lost to
lightweights like Cornell, and the temperamental Campanelli
would lash out angrily at his team, which included nine
underclassmen from two straight top-10-rated recruiting classes.
By midseason, his players had quietly complained to
administrators about Campanelli's ranting, and the athletic
department was finding his behavior a source of embarrassment.
Cal's record stood at 10-6 after a loss at Arizona State in
early February. Stevie Johnson, a former Bears forward now
playing professionally in France, says that Bozeman summoned him
to his hotel room on the morning of the team's next game,
against Arizona in Tucson on Feb. 7, and told him that a
coaching change might be in the offing. Johnson says Bozeman
wanted to sound him out to see if he would be in his corner if
Cal vice chancellor Dan Boggan, who had responsibility for the
athletic department, were to ask Johnson his feelings about a
coaching change. "[Bozeman] said, 'Tell [Boggan] you'd like me
to be the new coach, but don't tell him I asked you,'" Johnson
says. "And he asked me, if he became head coach, who on the team
would like it."
Bozeman says Johnson's account is fiction, the delusions of a
bad actor who holds a grudge against him because Bozeman
dismissed Johnson from the team the following November for
disciplinary reasons. Bozeman insists he had no clue that
Campanelli's job was in jeopardy. But Cal lost that game to
Arizona, and Campanelli tore into his players again, this time
within earshot of athletic director Bob Bockrath. Campanelli was
fired the following afternoon. Though Bozeman was only 29 and
had never been a head coach at any level, he was named to
replace Campanelli on an interim basis.
The Bears went on to win nine of their final 10 games, reached
the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament and in the process did what
no team had been able to do since 1987: deny Duke a spot in the
Final Four. Bozeman was rewarded with a three-year contract.
From there Bozeman simply hurtled faster forward. If there was a
player to be procured, he was there, in the hunt. He knew that
Jelani Gardner, the 1993-94 California high school player of the
year, had a healthy ego. So he played to it, telling Gardner
that he was a natural to assume the mantle of Kidd, who had
announced that he was entering the NBA draft after only two
years at Cal. A year later the grapevine had Shareef
Abdur-Rahim, a devout young man from a Muslim family in
Marietta, Ga., and a top-five recruit nationally, as a lock for
Georgia Tech or some nearby ACC blue blood like Duke or North
Carolina. But Bozeman had done his homework. He knew to leave
his shoes outside the door when he visited Shareef's home, knew
how to greet his mother (because Islam forbids shaking a woman's
hand), knew he could sell the family on Berkeley as a haven of
multiculturalism where Shareef could practice his religion
unself-consciously. (The NCAA deemed it only a minor violation
that a Muslim graduate student at Berkeley, using a ticket
purchased by Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, arranged
for Abdur-Rahim to visit the campus even though, as a recruited
athlete who hadn't yet qualified academically, he wouldn't have
been eligible to visit at school expense.) Soon Bozeman became
known as Coach Lottery, the man who had produced three jackpot
winners in four years: Kidd (taken No. 2 by the Dallas
Mavericks), forward Lamond Murray (the seventh selection in the
'94 draft, by the Los Angeles Clippers) and Abdur-Rahim (the
Vancouver Grizzlies' top pick last year, at No. 3).
While recruiting, Bozeman played the high school kids' peer, but
coaching them was another matter. "A lot of guys wanted him to
remain like when he recruited them," says sixth-year senior
Alfred Grigsby, Bozeman's first big-time signee at Cal. "They
wanted buddy-buddy, but Coach had a job to do."
After the 1994-95 season, forward Tremaine Fowlkes, who had
played 26 minutes a game as a freshman, wanted Bozeman to
guarantee in writing that he would play 35 minutes and have five
plays run for him every game. His classmate Gardner, who had
averaged 27 minutes, also demanded 35. Bozeman refused to be
pinned down. The talent kept rolling in, but it seemed to do so
with no regard for how each piece might fit. Last Thursday a
reporter remarked to Bozeman that he seemed to be taking the
loss of his job with surprising calm. "People have no idea [what
it was like]," Bozeman said, after detailing the welter of
parents, teenagers and third parties with whom he had to deal.
"That's why I'm not tripping."
At the very least, Bozeman might be fazed by what Tom Gardner
has told the NCAA. Jelani had indeed started at point guard in
the second half of his freshman season. But the Gardners were
concerned that Bozeman was recruiting another point guard,
Prentice McGruder, a junior college transfer who ultimately
would cut into Jelani's playing time, just as Jelani had been
brought in over incumbent K.J. Roberts, who wound up
transferring to UC Riverside. And there was, Tom says, a problem
about the money--the failure of Bozeman to deliver the full
$15,000 he had allegedly promised.
To address these concerns, Linda and Tom say, Bozeman flew to
Los Angeles in the summer of 1995, before Jelani's sophomore
season got under way. While dining with the Gardners at the
Cheesecake Factory, a restaurant in Marina del Rey, he was
unaware that Linda had a voice-activated tape recorder concealed
in her purse. After dinner the Gardners drove Bozeman back to
the airport. While Tom and Bozeman conversed in the front seat,
Linda sat in the back with her tape recorder still running. The
Gardners' Jeep Cherokee was double-parked curbside at the United
terminal as Tom pressed for the full sum he says he had been
promised. "The information on the tape is a slam dunk," Tom says.
While they sat in the Cherokee, says Tom, "[Bozeman] said, 'If
that's what you want'--meaning the money--'then I'll show you
what $15,000 is really about. It will be about just $15,000.'"
The Gardners took this as a threat--that if they became too
belligerent in their demands, Bozeman could, as Tom says, "mess
up Jelani's career," because he controlled Jelani's playing
time. Tom says he and Linda made the tape because Bozeman hadn't
kept his word about the money, and in the ensuing season Jelani
did find his playing time scaled back slightly.
"We kept Jelani out of this whole deal," Tom says. "The bottom
line is, I was wrong. I jeopardized my son's future by taking
money to begin with. But [Bozeman] was wrong, too. He got us the
money. I'm admitting my mistake, and J's moving on. I hope
[Bozeman] admits his mistake, too."
In an interview with SI last Thursday, Bozeman denied all of Tom
Gardner's allegations. While he acknowledged that the Gardners
mentioned that they had been getting improper payments, he says
he didn't take them seriously because he had found Tom Gardner
to be untruthful with him before. "We've developed the Tom
Gardner truth test," says Jim Cobb, Bozeman's attorney. "How can
you tell when Tom Gardner's lying? When his lips are moving."
Because the Gardners taped Bozeman in violation of California
law, which requires the consent of all parties for a
conversation to be recorded, Cobb says he will initiate a civil
action on Bozeman's behalf against the Gardners and perhaps
against the NCAA.
All parties investigating the case--Cal, the Pac-10 Conference
and the NCAA--confirm the existence of the tape and the
substance of the conversations recorded on it. And a source
close to the probe, who has heard the tape and read a transcript
of its contents, says that, during the conversation, "Todd
didn't deny [the payments] or his knowledge of them. The thing
that we're pushing more on--because the tape makes this very
clear--is that he had knowledge or should have had knowledge
about very major NCAA rules violations, and it's his ethical
duty to report that. He did not."
To date, no one has been able to answer the big question: Where
did the money come from? "Nobody knows," says Cal athletic
director John Kasser, who replaced Bockrath in January 1994. But
it does bring us to the two other principals who were aware of
the "traveling money."
One is James Casey, who was a registered players agent until
1992, representing NBA center Benoit Benjamin before leaving the
business to become a freelance "runner," a denizen of that
demimonde of middlemen who initiate contacts with prospective
clients and deliver them to agents. He is also married to Linda
Gardner's first cousin.
Casey has had several ignominious brushes with college sports.
In 1992 he hooked up with an L.A. business manager named Ray
Fisher, who wanted Casey to recruit athletes for his stable of
clients. Fisher claims to have given more than $36,000 to Casey,
former Arizona star Chris Mills and Mills's father, Claud.
Fisher thought that sum would be a down payment on Chris's
becoming a Fisher client, but Casey never delivered. Fisher sued
Claud and Chris to recoup his "investment," and the case was
settled out of court with a confidentiality clause.
Since then, Cal has had its own episode with Casey, who in March
1995 squired Fowlkes to a Long Beach car dealership and gave him
$1,800 to help pay for a Chevy Blazer. As a result, the NCAA
ordered Fowlkes to sit out 14 games last season. He returned for
the final 14 games and has since left for Fresno State.
Tom Gardner says that he used Casey only as a front man to field
offers from schools willing to pay for his son's services. The
party who actually delivered the cash was former Indiana star
Butch Carter, who was then a Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach.
Tom says Carter approached the family while Jelani was in high
school, saying he was representing Bozeman. He then sent
payments by overnight mail.
Carter admits he sent the money but says he was passing it on
from Casey (whom Carter had met while playing for the Los
Angeles Lakers), not from Bozeman (whom he describes as "a
distant friend"--even though Bozeman immediately rattled off
Carter's phone number when asked for it last week). "It wasn't
going to be a problem for me [to send the money]," says Carter,
referring to his status outside the purview of the NCAA. "Would
it benefit Bozeman? Yes. But I said to Casey that if Todd found
out, there's no way he'd [tolerate] it. He'd turn it in." Carter
says he has documents implicating two other schools that bid in
the Jelani sweepstakes and offered to show that evidence to SI
"if you hold your story and keep me out of it."
Yet, says Casey, who is an Angeleno, "why would I send money all
the way to Milwaukee for him to FedEx to L.A., when all I had to
do was walk across the street? It's crazy. It didn't happen that
Aaron Goodwin, a Bay Area agent, represents former Cal stars
Kidd and Abdur-Rahim, as well as Seattle Supersonics guard Gary
Payton and Sacramento Kings guard Mitch Richmond. Tom Gardner
says he believes that Bozeman tried to steer his star players to
Goodwin, a charge Bozeman and Goodwin deny. "These accusations
have been made before, actually by more credible people than the
Gardners," says Goodwin.
Bozeman denies any business connection with Goodwin. And Goodwin
concurs. "I've spoken with the NCAA about this," says Goodwin.
"I've spoken to Cal officials, and I've spoken to the Pac-10
about these rumors. The bottom line is, Todd and I have no
relationship other than that I have represented two players he
has coached. We don't hang out. We don't do business. People try
to make out that I try to pay players to go to Cal, or I'm
paying Todd Bozeman to get players. I don't have time to hang
out at Cal."
Nonetheless, while Kidd was a Berkeley freshman, Goodwin's gold
Mercedes was often parked in the lot outside Harmon Gym. He
would bop in and out of the basketball office, and during the
off-season he watched the players play pickup ball.
Goodwin says he would have had no need to get involved in
college recruiting. "I just did an $85 million deal for Gary
Payton," says Goodwin. "What would I want with high school
While there is no evidence linking Bozeman to Goodwin's good
fortune, there is an answer to the question he poses. Kidd and
Abdur-Rahim were high school players not too long ago--players
so good that neither had to spend more than two years in college
before becoming a lottery pick in the NBA draft.
That old Watergate axiom--Follow the money--leads down a trail
that, at week's end, went nowhere. If Carter is lying and the
money didn't come from Casey, where did it come from? If Carter
is telling the truth and the money did come from Casey, where
did Casey, who is a middleman and not an agent, get it? "You
have to believe there's more to all this than just smoke," says
Newell. "There are some agents who are a lot closer to the
program than the alumni are. That isn't right. That breeds a lot
"It all goes back to the cloud that came when they so
unceremoniously dumped Lou Campanelli. It was just so strange,
being done in midyear, just two weeks after beating UCLA at UCLA."
Hours before Bozeman stepped down, SI reached Campanelli. He's
in Tokyo now, coaching in a Japanese league. For the first time
since his firing, he spoke publicly about the school that had
let him go. On the other end of the line, his composure cracked
as he said, "They carved out a piece of my heart. Let them just
bury themselves. They've made their nest. Let them lie in it. As
you sow in life, so shall you reap."
"I jeopardized my son's future by taking money. But Bozeman was
"Bozeman produced three NBA jackpot winners in four years."
"The alums don't want a national championship every year. They
want to be proud."