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Bozeman Resigns Amid Turmoil

College basketball: Facing sexual harassment allegations and an NCAA probe, coach ends turbulent tenure at Cal.

August 29, 1996|GREG SANDOVAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Todd Bozeman, the besieged California coach who was one of college basketball's savviest recruiters and one of its most controversial figures, resigned Wednesday.

Cal Athletic Director John Kasser acknowledged at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that in a meeting that morning he recommended Bozeman resign. He said that Bozeman, who led Cal to a 63-35 record in 3 1/2 years, was "very receptive."

Bozeman is leaving Cal in much the same way he came in--with controversy close behind.

The NCAA is investigating the Cal basketball program for possible "major rules violations," sources confirmed. And last week a former student, Suzanne Wilson, 22, claimed that Bozeman threatened and sexually harassed her.

A temporary restraining order has been issued and Bozeman, 32, is due in court Friday.

Kasser said his asking for Bozeman's resignation had nothing to do with the harassment allegations.

"It came down to, in the best interest of the way things were going, he would resign at this time," Kasser said. "I believe you cut your losses as soon as you can."

Bozeman did not attend the news conference but issued a statement later.

"Over the past several years, the NCAA and its enforcement staff has, for some unknown reason, targeted me and my program," Bozeman said. "The NCAA wields extraordinary power in terms of whom it chooses to investigate, when and how."

Last year NCAA investigators looked into accusations that Cal improperly recruited Shareef Abdur-Rahim, but Bozeman and Cal were cleared of wrongdoing.

Bozeman's troubles began even before becoming coach. When Coach Lou Campanelli was fired during the 1992-93 season, Bozeman, an assistant, was accused of igniting the player revolt that led to Campanelli's demise.

Bozeman denied the charges, but he was shunned by many of his peers.

Louisiana State's Dale Brown and former Washington Coach Lynn Nance spurned Bozeman by refusing to shake his hand after games.

If he was a pariah to other coaches, Bozeman attracted some of the best high school players in the country.

He convinced stars such as Jason Kidd, Lamond Murray and Abdur-Rahim to choose Cal when players of their caliber rarely signed there.

Bozeman's downfall seemed to start after two stars from the Los Angeles area, Jelani Gardner from Bellflower St. John Bosco High and Tremaine Fowlkes of Crenshaw, transferred out.

Gardner, who has enrolled at Pepperdine, reportedly has told the NCAA about rules violations.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that several of the alleged violations are for players accepting extra benefits.

In a interview with The Times, Tom Gardner, Jelani's father, refused to elaborate on what Jelani told NCAA investigators. Jelani Gardner did not return phone calls from The Times.

Tom Gardner said he was not sorry to see Bozeman go.

"Nobody else at the university or the basketball program did anything wrong," Gardner said. "It was just [Bozeman]."

Speculation that Bozeman would leave before the season and take a job with the New Jersey Nets, working for close friend John Calipari, had been circulating.

"We talked about it but not very seriously," Calipari said. "I may try to help him with a scouting position."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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