Editorial Services


What readers are saying about
Fraser Smith's Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor

"The sudden death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias in 1986 underlined the formidable challenge facing American higher education to balance intercollegiate athletics and academics. Smith, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, examines the entire event from the perspectives of the athlete, athletic Department, and administration, with Bias, coach Lefty Driesell, and Chancellor John Slaughter playing major roles. This is a carefully balanced study, exposing in detail the many improprieties of big-time athletics. As a first step toward a fix, Smith underscores the 1991 Knight Commission's report, which urges 'university presidents to take charge of the athletic programs.' This is a thoughtful investigative report."

"Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor" starts with the death of Bias, and walks us through the rubble of the aftermath. Smith's tour takes us inside the athletic program at a major university, exposing the hypocrisy, double standards, warped ideologies, greed and pressures to win...We see the Maryland athletic department through the anguished eyes of the chancellor. John Slaughter is the dominant character, protagonist and hidden narrator of the story. And the book is better for it."

"Smith recounts not only information previously presented in books and in magazine and newspaper articles, but also offers insights beyond it. He explores the results of this intense scrutiny on the lives of Lefty Driesell, the coach who was forced to resign, and John Slaughter, the chancellor who tried to contain the scandal. This is an excellent account of the investigation into the corruption of sports and sports players as personified by the tragic death of one promising young man. It should have wide appeal to sports fans and beyond."

"What Smith does not and cannot answer in his book is how many other tragedies may follow. That they will occur, however, seems almost certain from what this book says...A must read for any college basketball fan."

"Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor" offers lessons to college sports observers who have no more than a passing interest in the details of the Bias case itself...It also offers some heretofore unavailable insights including the private thoughts of Mr. Slaughter, now president of Occidental College, who gave Mr. Smith access to his diaries from that time...Doggedly reported."

"Using keen instincts, dogged determination and unique insight, Smith produces a work worthy of reading for anyone interested in college athletics...Everyone will find something of interest in this book. The sports fanatic will confront the ugly reality of college sports. The casual reader will admire Smith's analysis and insight into the personalities that shaped Maryland - the school and the state before, during and after Bias' death."

"Smith's the Baltimore Sun's premier political correspondent, a 12-year veteran of Capitol Hill and the Maryland State House and someone who can smell baloney a mile away. In the Len Bias tragedy, he spots all the ironies. His political instincts lead him directly to the root of the problem; university athletics are required, by state law, to be self-supporting. 'I wanted to write a book that showed more concretely how all the participants are captured and kept in a runaway locomotive powered by money and emotion,' Smith writes. And that's what he's given us. Who killed Len Bias? A runaway locomotive -- with everyone on board."
-- BLAIR LEE IV, columnist, Prince George's (MD) Journal, and Montgomery (MD) Journal

"One fine spring day in 1986, Len Bias from the University of Maryland was first pick of the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association draft of collegiate players. He was the second pick overall in the draft. The next day, he was dead of a cocaine overdose. Bias's death began a war on drugs in athletics, on both college and professional levels. The details of Bias's death have been the subject of numerous articles and more than a few books. Much of that information is here, too, but Smith, a political reporter for the Baltimore Sun, steps past the tragedy to investigate its ramifications on the lives and careers of Bias's coach, Lefty Driesell, and University of Maryland Chancellor John Slaughter. The maneuverings and political machinations of those men and of the university read like a Republican party handbook on damage control. Smith also provides a disheartening glimpse into the difficulties faced when reform of big-money college athletics is attempted. By any standard, this is an excellent effort and worthy of a broad readership."

"C. Fraser Smith's book should be read by anyone with an interest in college basketball. However, along with this interest the prospective reader should also have a strong stomach, for Mr. Smith will take him or her down into the cesspool which is big-time college athletics...The most valuable contribution of the book is to take us behind the scenes and help us to understand what happened and why."
-- THE FACULTY VOICE (University of Maryland, College Park, monthly faculty newspaper)

"June 19, 1986: Although the date doesn't hold the national reverence of Nov. 22, 1963, for Maryland alumni, residents and sports fans all over the country, it will forever be a tragic landmark. Where were you? How did you find out? What did you drop when you heard that Terrapin All-American basketball player Len Bias had died? The chain of events that Bias's death set off are recounted in painstaking detail by C. Fraser Smith in his new book, Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor...a highly readable account of virtually everything that happened from June 17, 1986 [on]. The three men the title refers to -- Bias, basketball coach Lefty Driesell, and Chancellor John Slaughter -- are thoroughly dissected by their histories, personalities, philosophies and actions... Unless you have been a thoroughly fanatical Terrapin basketball fan for the last seven years, you are likely to be shocked and surprised by the accounts of the goings-on in College Park."
-- THE DIAMONDBACK (University of Maryland, College Park, daily student newspaper)

"The dredging up of the Len Bias tragedy may lead some to wave the white flag and cry out in anguish, "Enough already!" Why must we continue to bash this defenseless terrapin? Shouldn't we declare it an endangered species and ease its pain? Besides, the author, C. Fraser Smith, graduated from the terrapin's natural tobacco-road enemy, the University of North Carolina. Should we send out the Maryland National Guard? But let me put your suspicions to rest. This historical account of the events leading to the death of Len Bias and the subsequent responses of those whose lives were permanently changed by the catastrophe furnishes a healing balm. His good research not only satisfies our need to know the facts, but it places the readers in the shoes of those primarily involved. The major characters in this story, a superstar athlete, a legendary coach, and a committed educator/scientist (Bias, Lefty Driesell and College Park Chancellor John Slaughter), are not portrayed as villains. All are depicted as exemplary individuals, each in his own way, who were caught in a system of intercollegiate competition enslaved to money, hypocrisy, exploitation and educational malpractice. The story Smith portrays clearly shows that there are no winners when the objectives of the athletic department supersede the goals of the educational program. The all-consuming and ultimately frustrating task facing Slaughter in the aftermath of Bias' death is most fascinating. How does one fire a living legend who has eight years remaining on a 10 year contract and is represented by super-lawyer Edward Bennett Williams? The confrontation described is better than an ACC tournament final. Presumably, the smoke has cleared and Lenny, Lefty and the Chancellor are history. New leaders are in place and a new cast of young athletes play the games. But that jersey still hangs there in the rafters in Cole Field House, and every time I see it, I'll think of this book."

"In Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor, Sun Reporter C. Fraser Smith uses the Bias tragedy as a means for exploring the corrupt system that helped kill him, and the agonizing reformation of it that is still in progress...A black university administrator who ended the half-time ritual of having a student run the length of the field with a Confederate flag, Dr. Slaughter fought Mr. Driesell, the Terrapin Club and the press to bring about the needed reforms following Bias's death; he is the hero of this book...In recent years, he has written about intercollegiate athletics. Lenny, Lefty and the Chancellor is a worthy addition....It is a thorough and definite account of how this national problem hit College Park, and the lessons learned by the people involved. Smith offers hope that past abuses have been effectively ended."

"When I first heard of the book, my friends and I were skeptical. The story was so well-covered. What more could we learn? But there are new and little known things in this book which tries to tie up all the loose ends, to do the story one final time, and to give it the perspective it needs."
-- DEREK McGINTY, host, Derek McGinty Show, WAMU-FM, Washington D.C.

"Your recent book, "Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor," gave me new insights into the world of college sports in general and the last six years at Maryland in particular. As a fairly serious sports fan and a part-time Maryland student, I thank you for the education."
-- ANDREW SHULMAN, book purchaser, Virginia

"Lenny, Lefty, and the Chancellor" reports the circumstances of the Bias affair in much of its complicated, tangled surface...indefatigable, often understandably frenetic amassing of facts and statistics adds up to a trove of raw data...The importance of the events ultimately has to do with American higher education on a larger geographical and chronological stage. The Bias case marked a localized eruption of a widespread growth that has peroidically been diagnosed and ignored."

"A superb but gloomy book about the Len Bias tragedy at the University of Maryland..."

"...A spellbinding tale surrounding the cocaine overdose and death of Maryland basketball star Lenny Bias...Careful research combined with a smooth writing style allows the author to place the three main characters, for whom the book is named, on the stage of the campus at College Park. What we see is a microcosm of today's major college basketball scene; too many academically deficient and socially deprived minority athletes being exploited by well over two hundred schools for their ability to make baskets and generate income. Herman Veal's moving description if the life of a black basketball player on campus is a chilling and poignant reminder...Chancellor John Slaughter is the focal point of the book. The scholarship, integrity and resolve of this learned black leader is severely tested...The cornerstone of this book is the author's intimate knowledge of state politics and how it impacts on the events at College Park... Smith eventually gets all the players on stage, from the Governor to the janitor, and exposes the entire tragedy for all to examine. Although events and people are underscored, the book is not judgmental and gives the reader room for his thoughts...This book should be required reading for anyone who cares about the University of Maryland. Its appeal and message transcend the sports arena."
-- PAUL BAKER, Host "Hoops," WCAO, Baltimore

"If one wishes to understand the constraints that operate on university presidents in dealing with athletics, or if one wishes to illustrate those constraints to students, this book -- the most detailed account to date of the events following Bias's death -- will be quite useful... Students, particularly those interested in college basketball, will enjoy reading this readable, illuminating book, and their reading may be used as the basis for discussion of many issues in the sociology of sport."
-- DAN C. HILLIARD, Department of Sociology, Southwestern University
- Sociology of Sport Journal

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