Attorney for Todd Bozeman says Morgan State violated coach's contract with suspension

Morgan State UniversityCollege SportsJustice SystemSavannah State UniversityCrime, Law and JusticeNCAA

The attorney for Todd Bozeman said Monday that university administrators violated the Morgan State men's basketball coach's contract and school policy regarding disciplining senior staff members when they placed the 48-year-old coach on paid administrative leave Sunday night.

Ricky Lefft, a South Carolina-based attorney, said that neither he nor Bozeman has been made aware by school officials as to why the coach was suspended, and that not being allowed to appeal any action taken against Bozeman was a violation of the contract he signed in 2009. "They've already punished him without due process," Lefft said in an interview Monday.

Lefft said that he read Morgan State's employee handbook "cover to cover" and believes that Bozeman should have been allowed to speak with administrators about the charge before he was placed on leave with hopes of the situation being resolved.

Bozeman was suspended a day after an incident at the end of his team's road victory at South Carolina State in which he made some sort of physical contact with senior guard Larry Bastfield during a timeout late in the game.

The incident was characterized by Bozeman as "accidental contact" akin to "coming around a corner and bumping into someone." Bastfield said in an interview with The Sun that his reaction to the contact was exaggerated, leading some in the gym to believe he was punched.

Lefft said that he spoke with Morgan State athletic director Floyd Kerr on Sunday morning after learning of the incident, requesting a copy of the tape of the game in order to view the confrontation and a chance to speak with university officials before they reached any sort of decision regarding Bozeman's status.

One of those who thought Bozeman had hit his player was South Carolina State president George E. Cooper, who twice after the game approached the Morgan State coach, chastizing him and threatening to call the authorities. Cooper did not identity himself as the school president, Bozeman said.

Bozeman said that he gave Cooper the number of the Morgan State athletic director, whom Cooper called. Cooper also instructed campus police to ask Bastfield if he wanted to press charges. Cooper later spoke with Morgan State president David Wilson.

Bastfield said that before boarding the team bus for a trip to Savannah, Ga., for Monday's game against Savannah State, he told police that Bozeman accidently bumped him in the chest and did not strike him in the face.

Campus police at the Orangeburg, S.C., school referred all inquiries about the incident Monday to a university spokeswoman, who said that no one at the school would be commenting. Spokeswoman Erica Taylor said that Cooper was out of town and would not comment on the matter.

In a statement released by Morgan State, spokesman Clinton Coleman said the university is conducting its own investigation and that "we are attempting to gather all of the facts to try and determine exactly what happed. … While we don't know all the facts involved in this case, Morgan State takes very seriously any incident that may result in injury to one of our students, faculty or staff."

Coleman said that Wilson hopes to meet with both Bozeman and Bastfield "as quickly as possible and to bring some clarity to this matter." Coleman said that assistant coach Kevin McClain would coach the Bears in Monday night's game against Savannah State.

In a telephone interview, Coleman said that he has watched a videotape of the incident, but that "it was totally inconclusive" because at the time when the contact appeared to take place, a South Carolina State student walked in between the camera and the bench and obscured the view of Bozeman and Bastfield.

Coleman referred all questions about Bozeman's contract to Julie Goodwin, the school's general counsel.

Goodwin did not return a telephone call from The Sun late Monday afternoon responding to Lefft's claim.

Bozeman said he was told to return to Maryland Monday and "work from home" until reporting to Kerr's office Wednesday for a meeting.

Ironically, the incident took place at the end of a rare victory for Morgan State in what has been one of Bozeman's more difficult seasons during a six-year tenure that included consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament in 2009 and 2010. The Bears lost their first seven games this season and have dropped a number of close games on the road,

After Monday's game at Savannah State, Morgan State doesn't play again until it hosts Norfolk State on Saturday.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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