YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Administrative Credibility Takes Beating

November 03, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

When it comes to credibility and leadership, Cal State Northridge is running close to empty.

Is there anyone in the athletic department willing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Last Wednesday, in the wake of women's basketball Coach Michael Abraham's indictment on charges of possession with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine, Athletic Director Paul Bubb told The Times he had "never" heard rumors of drug use or drug sales involving Abraham.

On Sunday night, Bubb reversed himself, telling a Times reporter that members of the women's basketball team expressed concerns nearly two years ago that Abraham was using drugs.

Bubb's contradiction came on the eve of a story that appeared Monday in the school newspaper, The Daily Sundial, detailing specific allegations by three former players about Abraham's erratic behavior during the 1996-97 season.

Bubb isn't the only Northridge administrator taking his time in revealing the whole truth. Judy Brame, the associate athletic director and No. 2 in the department, denied on Wednesday any knowledge of possible drug use by Abraham.

"I'm stunned, I'm stunned," Brame said in an interview, strongly insisting that she had never even heard rumors connecting Abraham to drug use.

But Bubb said Monday that Brame was informed of the allegations in February of 1997 when he conducted an investigation.

Now Brame is replacing Abraham as basketball coach on an interim basis. What credibility will she have among the players?

Bubb insists, "I have not lied to the media."

Taking Bubb at his word, maybe he didn't understand the questions posed last Wednesday. But it took him four days to fully correct the record, and it only came after stories in Monday's Times and Daily Sundial divulged that three former players came to him last year expressing concern about Abraham's possible drug use.

Bubb said he confronted Abraham with the allegations, and Abraham denied them. The investigation ended there. Abraham has not been available for comment since his arrest.

"Had I found anything that would have substantiated that allegation, I would have taken it to the next level," Bubb said.

Bubb's job is on the line. Ronald Kopita, the school vice president, said Monday he was not pleased that Bubb waited until Thursday morning to inform him of the first Abraham investigation.

"We're taking this very seriously on all levels," Kopita said.

It appears Northridge twice did not dig deep enough to investigate allegations involving Abraham. In 1995, when Abraham was hired from Oregon State, he was part of a staff that was under investigation for possible NCAA rules violations. It didn't deter his hiring.

But the allegations of drug use last year are much more serious.

"If they would have done something then, he [Abraham] wouldn't be in the situation he is now," one former player told the Daily Sundial. "If they would have looked into him and figured out what was going on, I think they could have helped him."

Northridge President Blenda J. Wilson should no longer rely on Bubb or Brame to conduct athletic department investigations.

For some reason, they don't seem to inspire much confidence in encouraging athletes to tell the truth. And their professional judgment is in question.

When Brame conducted the investigation of women's volleyball player Nancy Ma, who was accused by two former players of academic fraud last spring, she interviewed one of Ma's professors while an assistant women's volleyball coach was at her side.

The problem? The assistant coach was implicated in the allegations. Northridge's investigation cleared Ma and the coaches of any wrongdoing.

Bubb has displayed remarkable perseverance in his three-year roller coaster as athletic director. But the credibility of the athletic department is gone.

The best news coming out of Northridge this week is that Wilson has put Mary Ann Cummins-Prager, assistant vice president for operations and personnel, in charge of investigating the Abraham matter.

The athletic department is out of the picture.


Eric Sondheimer is The Times' local columnist. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.

Los Angeles Times Articles