Late to establish position, Morgan could lose Bozeman

March 11, 2009|By RICK MAESE | RICK MAESE,

With the Ravens' run deep into the playoffs and Maryland men's basketball program surrounded by flashing lights and blaring alarms these past couple of months, I didn't get to see Morgan State play as much as I'd have liked.

I was able to follow the Bears, though, thanks to the highly entertaining and mostly unpredictable blog maintained by coach Todd Bozeman. One minute he's lamenting a loss ("The guys came out with NO energy, NO focus, NO respect for their opponent and NO respect for each other. It was embarrassing for sure!"), the next he's ripping an official ("dude is a clown ... case closed!") and the next he might be talking politics ("One NATION under a groove ... gettin down just 4 the funk of IT! WOW! Barack Obama is the next President of the United States!!!!!").

There is one blog post I've been waiting for, one that is long overdue: Bozeman announcing a new contract that will keep the coach at Morgan State for several years to come.

Bozeman hasn't written it, though, because it's not true. In fact, as Morgan State begins play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament tonight, just three wins away from its first trip to the NCAA Division I tournament, Bozeman has amazingly reached the end of his contract with nothing in place to secure his future at the school.

When Morgan State rescued Bozeman in 2006, it signed him to a three-year deal, a contract that is due to expire at the end of this season. That means after all Bozeman has done - resurrecting a program, leading the Bears to their first winning seasons since 1988, winning the regular-season conference title twice and finally playing postseason basketball - there is no guarantee he'll be coaching at Morgan beyond this month.

Bozeman declined to discuss how the situation could have reached this point. He said he does not want to negotiate through the media but made it clear he would like to return.

"Of course, I do. I definitely want to be back at Morgan," he said.

Athletic director Floyd Kerr said the two sides tried negotiating an extension last year but the matter was shelved when they couldn't come to an agreement before the season began.

"We're waiting until the end of season," he said. "When that happens, we'll sit down with Coach. Morgan will put its best foot forward, and we'll do everything in our power to keep our coach and keep this all going. That's the intent for the program and the commitment from our administration."

Kerr says a plan for the program was in place before Bozeman was hired and progress is ahead of schedule. What doesn't make sense is the school could articulate a plan for growth - improved facilities, bolstered academic support, a revamped strength and conditioning program - but drop the ball on perhaps the most crucial part of the equation: locking up the services of the head coach.

And because the school failed to address this in a timely fashion, you can bet it'll cost Morgan a lot more. At best, it will have to shell out more money than it would have a year ago. At worst, the Bears lose their coach.

Bozeman was recently named the MEAC's Coach of the Year. He's a finalist for the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year award, given annually to the nation's top mid-major coach. The country has noticed the quick turnaround of the Bears' program, and you can bet when the coaching carousel begins spinning in a couple of weeks, Bozeman's name will be bandied about. Last year, Bozeman interviewed for a vacancy at Providence. With no contract in place for next year, he would be foolish not to pursue similar opportunities more aggressively this offseason.

Bozeman isn't like a lot of coaches. His time away from the game - he was busted by the NCAA for buying a recruit at the University of California in 1996 - has forced him to appreciate every day on the court. He recruits harder than many other coaches and is more innovative than most when it comes to connecting with his players, boosters and alumni.

His blog, , is a running diary of a college coach. He's also on Facebook, where he tosses around birthday wishes and sends quick notes to players after games.

And the coaching job he did this season is among his best. He took a team that was just two points away from winning the conference tournament last season - a group that lost its leading scorer, leading rebounder and point guard - and he has somehow fielded a more dominant squad this season.

Kerr knows this, which is why he says the school is determined to bring Bozeman back.

"I'm very confident we can get this thing done," he said. "I believe I share that with our administration. Everything has a plan. Planning things out has always been my style. I think we have a very good plan to get it done."

It's an unorthodox plan. In the world of college basketball, you don't wait until a contract is set to expire before hammering out details of an extension. And when you do, there's a price to be paid. If Morgan can't bring Bozeman back - if it wants to risk undoing three years of growth and progress - school administrators would have no one to blame but themselves.

It would be a shame if, someday soon, alumni and boosters click on Bozeman's blog, expecting an update on Bears basketball, and instead find a goodbye note.



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