At Maryland, the students haven't forgotten Bias. The campus bookstore sells No. 34 basketball jerseys in his memory and donates the money to a Len Bias charity fund. "We're sold out of the bigger sizes right now," says Charles Dukes, the bookstore's associate director. "The fashion is to wear them large, especially among the girls."
But to visit Cole Field House on the morning of Driesell's resignation is to see no memorial banners, no plaques, no real Len Bias jerseys in glass cases. Outside the basketball offices is a bulletin board dedicated solely to academic information. On it, Driesell had posted pages and pages of data about his teams' graduation rates and his former players' successes in life.
Driesell lost any real chance of keeping his job in that blinding flash of events following Bias's death. Terry Long and David Gregg, teammates and roommates of Bias's, were alleged to have snorted cocaine across the table from Bias. Four players—Bias, Long, Jeff Baxter and Tom (Speedy) Jones—were found to have been academically dismissed from school after the spring semester. Bias after flunking, or withdrawing from, all five of his courses. Freshman center Tony Massenburg was caught cheating on a final exam and was suspended from school for the fall semester.
Driesell reportedly participated in a cover-up of sorts on the morning of Bias's death by telling an assistant coach to clean up the room in which Bias had taken his fatal dose of drugs.
And so Driesell had to watch helplessly as a grand jury, two university task forces, scores of reporters and an internal investigation initiated by Maryland's chancellor, John Slaughter, all rifled through his career and the school's athletic policies. It was humiliating. Driesell wanted to fight back. His attorneys said no. All Lefty could do was put up papers on a bulletin board.
He had to read the words of James Bias, words that have stuck in the University of Maryland conscience for months. Bias told
The Washington Post
that Maryland had been "negligent" in handling his son, and said that the school often exploits its athletes by steering them into easy courses and by emphasizing performance on the field instead of in the classroom. "When they're recruiting these players, they promise them anything, and later the kids find out it's all athletics and Basket Weaving 101," James Bias said. He said his son had been used primarily to make money for the university, which last year took in $1.75 million of its $7.5 million in athletic revenues from the basketball program.
The charges were harsh, and it was quite clear that Bias was laying most of them at the feet of Driesell. When asked specifically about his son's former coach, James Bias replied, "Any statement I could make would be tantamount to a grain of sand compared to what he can find examining himself."
It wasn't supposed to happen this way, not to Lefty, not with all his powerful friends. He was supposed to be the kingpin of Maryland athletics, pulling strings, afraid of no one, able to step into the worst of trouble and come out with clean shoes. He had done it before, often. But not this time.
Driesell is a born-again Christian. He has examined himself. He honestly believes that the kids he has recruited have been good and that Maryland has served them well. "You don't judge a program on one semester," he says. "You judge it by what happens over 17 years."
To visit him a week before his resignation was to see his feistiness and frustration. Pinned outside his door was a newspaper clipping reporting that 30% of all college students will use cocaine at least once before they graduate. More men will try it than women, the clipping said. It seemed to be Driesell's way of saying that Maryland is not alone.