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Lending credence to the NCAA-as-target theory were 1) the fact that Brown has battled with the NCAA for years and 2) his admission that he has conveyed his feelings on the subject in strong terms both to Brodhead and LSU chancellor James H. Wharton. "Gestapo. Bastards," Brown called NCAA investigators last week. "I half suggested to the chancellor and Bob we should send some Shi'ite Muslims body-taped with hand grenades to NCAA headquarters.... They think they're going to nail LSU, but I'm knocking them flat...." Although Brown denied specific knowledge about the planting of any bugs, he said that if Brodhead's desire was to catch the NCAA in wrongdoing, he would "applaud" him and present Brodhead "with the damn J. Edgar Hoover award."
Brown has been angered over the NCAA's interrogation tactics, which he says involve intimidation, coercion and "putting words in players' mouths." Brown said he furnished Brodhead with a transcript of a conversation he says he taped with former LSU player Steffond Johnson in which Johnson discussed his "panic" over NCAA tactics. Brown quoted Johnson as saying Doug Johnson, the NCAA investigator, told him: "You can help us get Dale Brown. We have LSU but want Dale Brown.... Don't tell them we talked to you...or you put yourself in jeopardy." Contacted by SI Monday, Steffond Johnson, who is now at San Diego State, characterized Doug Johnson's conversation with him as "intimidating." But he also said of the NCAA inquiry, "It's no vendetta." He said that what the NCAA's Johnson told him was, "If [Brown's] a cheater, we're going to get him whether you help us or not." Then Steffond Johnson added: "For LSU basketball, it doesn't look good. This guy knew everything."
David Berst, the NCAA's director of enforcement, said, "We certainly do on occasion put pressure on institutions or individuals to cause them to talk to us. But...we don't put words in people's mouths. We're not inclined to steer the outcome of interviews."
Brown did link himself indirectly to the bugging scheme. He said that Brodhead was looking for eavesdropping expertise and that he gave the athletic director the name of Dick Barrios, a private investigator and former chief sergeant at arms of the Louisiana legislature who had checked Brown's and Brodhead's offices for bugs last summer. Brodhead subsequently contacted Barrios, according to Jerry McKernan, a Baton Rouge attorney and friend of Barrios's. Brown now expresses regret for recommending Barrios to Brodhead. "I didn't know this would happen," he said.
Sources close to the grand jury quoted Barrios as saying he didn't do the job because "I don't know how to do this." Instead, sources said, Barrios gave Brodhead Davis's name. Contacted by SI, Barrios refused to comment. Davis could not be reached for comment.
Whatever Brodhead's exact target, there was speculation that he had a mandate from Wharton or other LSU higher-ups to bug his office. "Yeah, I had a mandate to find out from all my superiors...," Brodhead told SI. "It was more 'God, let's find this. Either you find it or something's going to happen.' " Brodhead further sought to justify his actions by saying, "It is not against the law to own any of the equipment that was in my office. All of it could have been purchased at any local electronics store."
Wharton disputed Brodhead, saying, "There was certainly no mandate for him to use that approach." At the same time, Wharton, who said he also had been aggravated by "leaks," appeared to be playing down the whole matter when he released a statement saying that Brodhead's equipment was tested "in a controlled situation," stored in Brodhead's desk and "never used" to record any conversations.
None of the principals in this stormy LSU drama is a stranger to controversy. For example, neither Brodhead nor Wharton can show his face at football halftime ceremonies without being unmercifully heckled. And that was the case before the bugging incident. The chancellor was hired in 1981, and after winning a brief power struggle with the Board of Supervisors, he moved once-popular A.D. Paul Dietzel to another job. Though Dietzel had worn out his welcome on his second go-round at LSU, Wharton publicly ripped the A.D. in a way that stunned old purple-and-golders.
Brodhead, meanwhile, was Wharton's hand-picked choice for A.D. He was to straighten out LSU's estimated $1 million athletic deficit. A quarterback at Duke and in the pros, Brodhead once threw for a then-professional record 3,778 yards in one season as a Philadelphia Bulldog in the Continental League. Brodhead used to refuse to wash his hands on game day to assure a good grip on the ball. Nevertheless, once he was thrown for a 51-yard loss, after which he fumbled. His 3½-year tenure at LSU has met with similarly mixed results. "The man exhibits the finesse of an elephant," former Governor John McKeithen, a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, once said.
While the A.D. has moved his department firmly into the black—he is known as Bottom Line Bob—he has done so by raising ticket prices, dropping wrestling and men's gymnastics and implementing other changes at the expense of tradition. He has also fired a slew of coaches, from football's Jerry Stovall to the baseball coach, Jack Lamabe, who saw a want ad for his position before he was officially fired. "They say when a new coach comes here I put his name on his door in chalk," says Bottom Line Bob, chuckling. LSU's athletic dorm is an antiquated relic with lizards sometimes climbing the walls—"No wonder Tito took off," says a school official. Still, Brodhead's proposed $27 million renovation and expansion of the athletic facilities have met with some resistance. Board member Sheldon Beychok objects that the expenditure of so much money and energy on athletics is "counterproductive to academics," adding, "I guess I hold a funny view about a university. I believe it exists to educate."