Seven University of Maryland basketball player including Len Bias, three other starters on last year's team and Adrian Branch -- charged $1,297.30 in long distance calls to an assistant coach's telephone credit card during the 1984-85 season, a university official confirmed yesterday.
Gothard Lane, an assistant athletic director who discovered the calls during routine monitoring of itemized phone bills, said all seven players reimbursed the athletic department after they were asked. Apparently there was no other penalty imposed on the players.
Some calls were made by persons to whom the players apparently gave the number of assistant coach Ron Bradley's credit card.
Bias, who died of cocaine intoxication June 19, paid $112.25, and that total included calls made from a telephone number belonging to Johnnie Walker, according to Lane. Walker, a District of Columbia police officer and longtime friend of Bias, is one of 75 people subpoenaed in a Prince George's County grand jury investigation into Bias' death.
Several calls from Walker's number were made to hotels in Hawaii and Ohio when the team was in those states for games, Lane said.
Guard Keith Gatlin ran up the largest bill, $454.29, according to figures provided by Lane. Other figures provided by Lane were forward Tom (Speedy) Jones, $332.98; forward Derrick Lewis, $155.73; Branch, $127.39; redshirt center Bryan Palmer, $86.58, and center Terry Long, $27.58.
A student at Allegany Community College in Cumberland, Md., also obtained the number and charged $917.75 worth of calls. The university has been unable to collect the money.
A Prince George's County police source said that Robert Lewis, director of security for the C&P Telephone Co. of Maryland, came to police in September and sought prosecution of Branch and Jones for the calls they placed from the county after the two declined to pay.
It was unclear whether these sums were in addition to the money collected by the athletic department, because the calls occurred after March 24, 1985, the date Lane said he canceled the credit card. Police said Lewis told them that, due to a computer malfunction, the card was not canceled and the athletic department refused to be responsible for charges incurred after that.
Because those charges were so small -- $30.76 for Branch and $14.75 for Jones -- police said they directed Lewis to District Court so he could apply for a warrant or a criminal summons on misdemeanor theft charges. There is no computer record of such a warrant or summons being issued, police said.
Lewis, citing C&P policy, declined comment.
Tim Gilmore, executive assistant to Chancellor John B. Slaughter, said the credit card use was not reported to the Atlantic Coast Conference or the NCAA because the infraction was discovered by the university and there were no extra benefits to the athletes, so it "was not necessary in that case."
Kevin Lennon of the NCAA staff said that, although there is no specific rule requiring an institution to report a case like this, many do. Given the circumstances, he said Maryland's "action was appropriate," but "we'd like to be kept abreast of actions by member institutions." In similar cases in which a university reports itself, the NCAA usually issues a private reprimand.
Athletic Director Dick Dull declined comment, Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell was unavailable and a spokesman said Bradley was not talking to the press. None of the players involved was available for comment.
The calls charged to Bradley's telephone card were made between late October 1984 and early April 1985, according to Lane, police, and telephone records obtained by The Washington Post. A source close to the team said Bradley had given his card to a player who was going to call a recruit and "a number of players got hold of the number . . . . It went around like wildfire."
The athletic department routinely monitors phone bills, looking for fraudulent calls. It was through this process that athletic department personnel discovered members of the men's football team in 1979 and 1980 and the women's basketball team in 1984 charging long distance calls to a telephone credit card issued to a coach. Maryland officials said they reported those incidents to the ACC and NCAA, and no public sanctions were announced.
The calls from Walker's number included daily calls to Honolulu Dec. 27-30, when Maryland was playing in the Rainbow Classic.
Lane said that many of Gatlin's phone calls were to relatives in North Carolina and that most of Branch's were to his girlfriend.
Branch completed his career after the 1984-85 season. Bias and Jones were seniors last year; the other players are enrolled at Maryland, although Palmer is not on the team.
Prince George's County State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. said yesterday that Driesell and Robert Wagner, who coached Bias at Northwestern High School, have been asked to waive automatic immunity if they are called to testify before the grand jury investigating Bias' death.
Marshall said neither Driesell nor Wagner is connected to illegal drug activity, but that he is concerned about what instructions they may have given to players after Bias' death. Under Maryland law, persons subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in drug cases have automatic immunity from prosecution. But it is unclear whether the immunity includes crimes that aren't drug related, such as obstruction of justice.