Scott Garceau: The Len Bias Debate
It took 28 years but this week came news that Len Bias will be inducted into the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame. The Hall’s by-laws say a candidate should be considered for athletic merit only and never for anything else. Bias is a unanimous no-brainer pick in that category, considered the greatest basketball player in Terps history he finished his college career as Maryland’s all-time leading scorer and a 2-time ACC Player of the Year.
The Boston Celtics saw his greatness and Red Auerbach made Bias the second pick in the 1986 NBA draft. Two days later Len Bias died on the College Park campus. A party, cocaine and dreams crushed on summer night in 1986.
And for nearly 20 years former Terps athletes and current coaches who vote for the Maryland Hall of Fame have had to deal with this.
Nominees must have good character and reputation, and not have been a source of embarrassment in any way to the University.
The character and reputation part is a fair debate, but there’s no question the death of Len Bias was a source of embarrassment to the University. Every recruit’s parents wanted to make sure their son or daughter didn’t wind up like Len Bias. Right or wrong in the eyes of too many Maryland was a bad place where that college basketball star died after a cocaine party. Gary Williams and scores of others on campus fought an uphill battle for years after the Bias death.
Kevin Glover is a former Terp, longtime NFL center and currently the executive director of the M Club. He doesn’t have a Hall of Fame vote but works closely with those who do. Here’s what he told The Baltimore Sun. “We all know it’s a very sensitive issue, a lot of changes were made to the university back in the day because of this situation. We decided it was time to move forward and honor one of the greatest student-athletes ever.”
The votes are in Len Bias will be 1 of 8 inducted into the Terps Hall of Fame on October 3rd. As a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors I don’t have to deal with issues like this. Our by-laws state we are to judge candidates only by what they do on the field. It’s a good system; we assess a candidate’s football career and leave the rest up to God.
I can appreciate what the Maryland voters have been wrestling with for nearly 20 years. The Len Bias resume is a complicated one framed by greatness yet punctuated by a deadly mistake. It’s apparent the voters faced a tough decision not a snap decision. Today I’m happy with their results and happy for the Bias family and all his fans. This honor isn’t about Len Bias’s death it’s about his life.
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