Calling it “one of the most serious cases this committee has considered in recent years,” the NCAA placed the men’s basketball program at California on three years of probation.
The NCAA banned the Bears Thursday from postseason play next season, reduced Cal’s scholarships by two for the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons and forced Cal to retroactively forfeit 28 victories in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.
The penalties were based on former coach Todd Bozeman’s payments of $30,000 in 1994-96 to the parents of former player Jelani Gardner, who now plays for Pepperdine.
Bozeman, forced to resign at Cal last August and succeeded by Ben Braun, admitted to the NCAA Committee on Infractions that he agreed to pay Gardner’s family $15,000 each year he played for the Bears.
Gardner, who apparently was not aware of the payments to his family, transferred to Pepperdine after his sophomore year. His family then went to the NCAA and presented evidence of the payments.
“This is one of the most serious infractions we’ve seen in a long time,” said David Swank, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma who chaired the six-member panel looking into the infractions.
“The number of violations in this case are actually quite limited, but it is one of the most serious cases this committee has considered in recent years. (It involved) significant cash payments to the parents of a student-athlete by the head coach.”
Cal athletic director John Kasser said the university did all it could to investigate and take action against Bozeman once officials learned of the payments.
“I’m glad they (the Gardners) did go to the NCAA,” Kasser said Thursday at a news conference. “I’m glad that we got to the bottom of this situation so that we could deal with it … and get on with our basketball program.”
Bozeman, who is not currently coaching, would have to appear before the Committee on Infractions - and face possible limitations on his employment - if he applies for an athletics-related job at an NCAA school in the next eight years.
Swank said Bozeman “provided false and misleading information to the committee and to the university” throughout most of the probe before finally admitting his role 10 days before a June 1 NCAA hearing into the case.
Bozeman was making payments to the Gardner family at the same time he knew the NCAA was investigating Cal’s recruitment of Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Jelani’s father called the violations to the attention of the NCAA because he was upset with his son’s playing time.
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