Later today, Morgan State will kick of its MEAC tournament slate with a quarterfinal game against the mighty North Carolina A&T Aggies. Morgan State enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed and the dominant conference power over the past three years. In that time, the Bears have a record of 42-6 in conference play.
The reason why? One Mr. Todd Bozeman.
Oh, yes, you remember the name. Bozeman coached at Cal from 1993 to 1996, where at the age of 29 he became the second-youngest coach to ever win a Sweet 16 game. Then, Bozeman resigned, admitting he paid $30,000 to the parents of Jelani Gardner so they could drive to watch their son play. ($30,000 is a pretty sweet travel budget. Rick Majerus remains jealous.)
So Bozeman was punished. Hard. The NCAA vacated two of the coach's seasons, including its 1996 tournament appearance, and Bozeman was hit with the coaching death penalty: an eight-year show cause order that essentially prevented schools from hiring him for the better part of a decade.
That order expired in 2004, and Bozeman soon took a job at one of the only places in the country willing to risk it: Morgan State. It's paid off. Bozeman has been a three-time MEAC coach of the year, recruiting the conference's best players, dominating his league each year but his first and, in 2008-09, got the Bears to their first NCAA tournament in the school's history.
That was Bozeman's major "It's me, snitches!" moment. This year, it just feels routine. The more pertinent question is one asked by this Bozeman feature in The Baltimore Sun: Will Bozeman get another job anytime soon?
It's hard to imagine a major program taking a risk with Bozeman, but there are plenty of Division 1 teams with higher profiles that might present a better opportunity for the formerly disgraced coach to prove his mettle. And there are plenty of mid-major coaches on the rise. But there's no denying that Bozeman's insane run in the MEAC these past four years is the very thing budding big-time coaching résumés are made of.
At the very least, Bozeman can be thankful he made his mistakes when he was young, because big time or not, he's got plenty of years left.