For the second time in seven years, the NCAA handed down sanctions against UNLV's men's basketball program, putting the Runnin' Rebels on four years' probation and banning them from postseason play for a year for violations stemming from the recruitment of Lamar Odom in 1996 and '97. Within hours of the Dec. 11 decision, school president Carol Harter fired coach Bill Bayno. "The issue here is who is responsible for the basketball program," Harter said. "It's the head basketball coach."
Bayno protested, saying the NCAA had not accused him of wrongdoing, and he threatened to go to court to force UNLV to pay him for the final two and a half years of his contract. Whatever legal recourse he may seek, Bayno seems destined to look bad in the court of public opinion. The man at the heart of the NCAA's case against UNLV is David Chapman, a Las Vegas dentist who has admitted providing roughly $5,600 in cash and benefits to Odom in 1996 and '97, when Odom was being recruited by Bayno. ( UNLV revoked its scholarship offer to Odom in the summer of '97 after his standardized test score was called into question.) The NCAA report describes Chapman as a "close friend" of Bayno's. Bayno claims he had no knowledge of Chapman's payments to Odom.
Bayno's admitted friendship with Chapman raises the issue of his choice of associates. Although there's no indication that UNLV was aware of it, Bayno's name surfaced last spring in connection with a racketeering case being brought in federal district court in Atlanta against Steve Kaplan, the owner of the Gold Club, an Atlanta strip joint. According to court documents related to the case, Kaplan enlisted Gold Club strippers to have sex with Bayno at Las Vegas's Mirage Hotel in June '98. (Steve Sadow, Kaplan's attorney, says: "Any such allegation about Steve Kaplan's involvement is absolutely untrue.") Bayno confirmed to SI that he met Kaplan several times, but says, "I had no idea Steve Kaplan was involved in any wrongdoing." Adds Bayno, who's single, "I'm not saying I haven't had sex with girls at the Mirage, but if it was arranged by Steve Kaplan, it was unbeknownst to me."
Bayno says he has cleaned up his act. "I've changed," he says. "In the last two years I've stopped socializing in nightclubs. It was hurting my image."