Morgan State suspends Todd Bozeman

Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman has been suspended indefinitely with pay after a scrape he has described as "accidental contact" with senior guard Larry Bastfield during a win Saturday at South Carolina State, The Baltimore Sun has reported.

Athletic director Floyd Kerr informed him of the decision late Sunday night, Bozeman told the newspaper. The school has begun an investigation into the incident.

On Monday Bozeman called the reaction by the school "overblown" when speaking to The Associated Press.

"I didn't hit him," Bozeman told The AP.

The coach insisted that he would never strike one of his athletes.

"I love my players," Bozeman said. "I'm an emotional coach, but I don't get physical with my players in that way. I hug them, I kiss them on the forehead."

Kerr told the coach he was to "separate" himself from the team and have no further contact with any of his players or coaches until further notice, The Sun reported.

"My attorney made numerous attempts to get them to wait until Tuesday before deciding to take any action," Bozeman said, according to The AP. "They chose to do it now."

Bozeman expects to meet with Kerr on Wednesday. He told the Baltimore newspaper Kerr declined to elaborate on the reasons for the suspension.

"I am confident when the facts come out, they will speak for themselves," Bozeman said.

South Carolina State president George E. Cooper, who has said he witnessed the incident and thought the coach had punched the player in the face, summoned campus police during the game to query the player about bringing possible charges against Bozeman.

Cooper was joined by several in the crowd in saying they witnessed the coach punch the player.

Bozeman and Bastfield maintained Sunday night the situation was blown out of proportion, according to The Sun. Bastfield told the newspaper he "exaggerated" his reaction to the physical contact with Bozeman.

"These people are completely off the charts" regarding the accusations, Bozeman said in a telephone interview with The Sun. "I didn't hit him in the face."

Bastfield said he hadn't thought much about the incident before two campus police officers asked him if he was interested in pressing charges against Bozeman before he boarded the team bus.

"They said they were told he hit me in the face," Bastfield said, according to The Sun. "I told him that he accidently bumped me in the chest. It was something that happens in the heat of the game."

A school official said Kerr was not available to comment because he was out of town.

Bozeman will not coach the Bears on Monday night for their game at Savannah State.

"That's OK. They'll be fine," he said.

On Saturday, Morgan State (3-9, 1-0 MEAC) beat South Carolina State 73-68 after overcoming a late rally by the Bulldogs (4-11, 0-2), who had trailed 48-38 in the second half before tying the game at 55-55.

Bozeman is no stranger to trouble -- on or off the court.

In 2007, during his first season as Morgan State's coach, Bozeman was charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from an incident at a Virginia restaurant.

The charges were later dismissed after he reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the manager of the establishment and apologized publicly to Mulligan's Sports Grille in court.

According to restaurant manager Carlos Holland, Bozeman had gone "belligerent, screaming that he didn't want ham sandwiches."

"We had kids in here eating, nice and quiet with their families," Holland said at the time. "He's the head coach of a university, showing a bad example."

Bozeman's hire by Morgan State followed an eight-year ban for NCAA violations during his coaching tenure at California.

Bozeman, then 29, became the youngest head coach to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 with the Golden Bears, but just as quickly was barred from the college ranks because of recruiting violations.

The ban came after Bozeman admitted he had paid a recruit's family $30,000.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.