Las Vegas Sun

May 30, 2024

UNLV booster speaks out

Editor's note: UNLV and the NCAA have had their public say, and now accused Rebels booster Dr. David Chapman is having his.

Throughout the NCAA's two-year investigation of alleged wrongdoing by UNLV's men's basketball program, Chapman has been the mystery man at the heart of the most serious allegations. He is accused of giving former Rebels recruit Lamar Odom up to $6,000 in cash and other improper benefits in 1997, charges that could lead to major NCAA sanctions against the program.

Chapman, a baby-faced, 38-year-old Las Vegas dentist known as "Dr. Tooth" by UNLV players, has refused comment about the case from the outset, choosing to let his attorney speak for him. Now Chapman has broken his silence, sitting down for an exclusive interview with Sun basketball writer Steve Addy.

Part one today details Chapman's associations with Odom, and part two Tuesday will discuss Chapman's relationship with UNLV coach Bill Bayno, his players and the program.

In a two-hour interview Friday at the downtown office of his lawyer James Chrisman, UNLV booster Dr. David Chapman admitted he provided cash, housing and various benefits to former Rebels recruit Lamar Odom after UNLV released Odom from his letter of intent on July 24, 1997. UNLV conceded that rules violation in its response, and that alone might give the NCAA sufficient cause to impose repeat-violator penalties.

But Chapman strongly maintained his denial of Odom's testimony that Chapman gave him regular cash payments totaling as much as $6,000 while Odom was enrolled in a UNLV summer class in 1997.

Chapman says the NCAA "pressured" Odom into lying about the payments in exchange for gaining eligibility at the University of Rhode Island, but that a bitter Odom was all too eager to strike back at UNLV coach Bill Bayno, whom he felt had wronged him.

Also, Chapman claims:

Chapman acknowledged that many will view his answers with a skeptical eye, but stressed, "I'm telling the truth."

The process of determining the truth won't resume until UNLV appears before the NCAA Committee on Infractions, probably on Sept. 22 in Dallas, with a decision on penalties expected by early November.

In the meantime, the Rebels remain in limbo -- the uncertainty makes recruiting tougher -- and Chapman is suspended as a booster until the case is resolved.

Sun: Up to now, you have never commented about this case. Why did you agree to this interview? Do you feel your actions have been mischaracterized?

David Chapman: I feel like the media who have written articles are just writing what they think is true, or they're just going by the allegations, (some of) which I know are false.

Sun: So you want to refute some of the impressions that are out there about you?

DC: And substantiate the stuff that I've (testified to).

Sun: You have admitted to NCAA and UNLV investigators that you provided cash, housing, transportation, airfare, clothing and free dental work to Odom after he was released from his letter of intent on July 24, 1997. Do you realize the potential ramifications of those admissions for UNLV?

DC: Yes. It's the truth, and I wasn't going to lie to (the NCAA). I wasn't going to talk to (the NCAA) because I was scared that maybe I had done something that could really hurt the school. When I decided to talk to the NCAA, I admitted to the stuff that was true. But they had questions about stuff that I thought was not true.

Sun: Odom testified to the NCAA that you gave him regular cash payments ranging from $400 to $600 while he was enrolled at summer school at UNLV. He says the payments could have totaled $6,000. You have denied those allegations throughout the investigation, and you say you have passed a lie-detector test.

(James Chrisman, Chapman's attorney, produces a report of a polygraph exam administered by Western Security Consultants of Las Vegas. The examiner, Ronald D. Slay, affirmed with 93.3-percent reliability that Chapman answered truthfully that he did not "give or loan" money to Odom while he was enrolled. The report was submitted to the NCAA in UNLV's official response.)

DC: What I'm denying is that I gave him money while he was in school. I'm not saying I didn't give him money after (his release from UNLV), because I did.

Sun: Is it your contention that once Odom was given limited immunity by the NCAA, allowing him to keep his eligibility at Rhode Island, he exploited a chance to strike back at UNLV for not "taking care of him," as many have characterized his unhappiness with the program?

DC: When Lamar got investigated by the NCAA, he told me (the next day), "Dave, I had an interview with the NCAA and I mentioned your name. I was pressured into saying things, so I told them small things, trying to get UNLV." He said the longer the interview went, the more he had to give out. Even if some of those things are true that I gave him money, it's maybe the time frame he lied about, because he wanted to play (be eligible at Rhode Island).

Sun: Was the NCAA's immunity offer a de facto encouragement for Odom to tell them what he thought they wanted to hear?

DC: I think if Lamar had just stuck to his guns, he would've gotten eligible, because he was innocent. I think that he was pressured, because he told me he was. If he had really wanted to talk to the NCAA about me the way he did, we would not be friends. He wouldn't have asked me to be the godfather to his child (daughter Destiny). He wasn't out to get me. He was out to get UNLV. He got pressured into that. He was maybe 17 years old when they interviewed him, and he was scared. He wanted to play college ball. This was a guy who gave up being (an NBA) lottery pick out of high school.

Sun: Is Odom lying about the timing or the amount or both? Why would he lie?

DC: I don't want to say he's lying, because he and I are still pretty close. I think he felt bad when he (involved my name). But he ... he is really bitter against UNLV, first of all. I'm not sure what the NCAA told him, but I'm assuming they told him, "Look, no matter what, there's nothing we can do to (Chapman). He's totally safe." Lamar's big thing was (getting back at UNLV). To this day, he won't speak to Bill Bayno. I've been with Bayno sometimes when Lamar has called me on the phone. I'll say, "Hey, Lamar, what's up?" Bayno would say, "Tell him I said hello," but I wouldn't tell him. Another time Bayno said, "Tell him I'm going to be in LA, does he want to meet for dinner?" But I wouldn't tell Lamar that. One of the things Lamar hates is that I'm friends with Bayno. I agree with Lamar. I would hate Bayno, too. And I have told Bayno that.

Sun: Why should Odom hate Bayno?

DC: Because I feel like Bayno should have defended him.

Sun: Over what?

DC: When Lamar got kicked out of school here, I would've defended him and not kicked him out.

(On July 11, 1997, the NCAA asked UNLV to obtain Odom's signature on a waiver that would authorize the NCAA to review Odom's ACT entrance exam. A Sports Illustrated article a week earlier reported that Odom's ACT scores might have been achieved fraudulently, naming Gary Charles -- Odom's former summer coach -- as a participant in the alleged fraud. Odom refused to sign the waiver, and UNLV released him from his letter of intent two weeks later.)

DC: (The waiver) was the whole reason they kicked him out.

Sun: What about UNLV's official response, which also asserts that Odom was released because he constantly complained about not being given money? A lot of people have testified about that, including his former roommate Greedy Daniels.

DC: That's all made up. I don't know who made it up. You don't kick out the No. 1 player just because he's complaining like everyone else. All of (the players) complain. ... Besides, Lamar didn't really need money. When his mother died, she left him a trust fund. He probably had close to $100,000 in the bank before he left high school. He wasn't looking for money and his family wasn't looking for money.

Sun: But that's not what you hear through the grapevine.

DC: I know that.

Sun: When you were supporting Odom after his release, while he was living in your home, did you know it was a probable NCAA violation? Did you realize those were improper benefits?

DC: (UNLV) had kicked him out of his apartment. He said, "Dave, I don't care about basketball. I don't care about politics. I want to go to school and be a businessman." I said, "As soon as you feel better, you'll want to play again." He was speaking out of frustration. But I told him at the time that his image was terrible, and the best thing he could do to work on it was to continue to go to school. I wasn't going to pay for him to have an apartment, so I said, "Look, my family's out of town (for a month), stay with me." When (the NCAA) says I gave him cars and this and that, I let him drive my car every once in a while. But I didn't know he didn't have a license until the vice squad called me.

(On August 13, 1997, while driving Chapman's car, Odom was cited by Las Vegas police for soliciting prostitution. He was arrested in an undercover sting operation at the Del Mar Motel.)

Sun: Were you horrified when that happened?

DC: I was sleeping. It was about 1 or 2 in the morning and (the police) called. ... They said Lamar had been picked up for soliciting and he was driving my car, but he was 17 years old and didn't have a (driver's) license, so they couldn't release him. They needed someone to pick him up. They couldn't let him drive away. My car was in the parking lot of the motel. When I went down there (by taxi), Lamar was sitting in a small room. The (undercover cop posing as a prostitute) was so ugly, I told Lamar he could've at least picked a prettier girl (laughs). I made light of the situation there, but when I got in the car ...

Sun: Was that the "last straw" in regard to Odom living with you?

DC: No. It was the night before he was supposed to leave anyway. It was planned he was going back home (to New York). Gary Charles was coming out to pick him up. It was (Odom's) last night in town. In fact, that night when he went out, I told him to be very careful because the last thing you want is to have something happen. Don't go out drunk driving or anything like that, because if anything (bad) is going to happen, it's going to happen tonight. And it did. I swear to God, I called it. I must have had a premonition about that.

Sun: Did you give Odom anything -- cash, goods, services -- at the behest of anyone in the UNLV men's basketball program?

DC: No. In fact, when Lamar was staying with me, Bayno would tell me, "Get him out of town!" I think Bill might've felt he did the wrong thing by kicking (Odom) out of school and taking his scholarship away. I would ask Bill, "What's his chances of getting reinstated?" He said about a 10-percent chance, and that was another reason I felt Lamar should continue to go to school -- to prove to the coaching staff that he does want to go to school.

Sun: But sooner or later, he was going to have to sign the ACT test waiver.

DC: But there never should've been an investigation. He only took the test once. It's not like there was a discrepancy between two tests, where his scores went up and they said, "Look, something's odd here." What happened was the University of Connecticut faxed the NCAA a letter saying that Lamar cheated on the test, and that's why they started investigating it. The word around town was that (former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian) got the whole thing rolling with Lamar and the test. But I have a copy of the fax, and it's from the University of Connecticut. They were the third school involved (with recruiting Odom), with Vegas and Kentucky.

Sun: So was Tark involved at all?

DC: Not that I know of.

Sun: After Odom's release, who suggested that he move in with you -- you or Odom? Were you that close of friends already?

DC: I'm a pretty naive person. I like basketball, I like sports, and I've always been enamored (with) talent. The few times that I had met (Odom), I thought he was a nice kid and he was getting the wrong shake (from UNLV). I told him to stay with me and we'll figure out what you're going to do.

Sun: And you wanted him to continue in school?

DC: I was basically interested in his image at that point, because if you get kicked out at UNLV, you usually don't get a shot anywhere else. But I thought he was done with college ball.

Sun: UNLV says your motivation for supporting Odom was that you wanted to curry his favor for a future role as his business manager. Is that the case?

DC: That's not the truth. At the time, when Lamar was at my house ... I was being a friend to him more than anything. I really couldn't believe the school was doing it to him. He would tell me how much he trusted me as time went on. People from New York weren't calling him anymore. (Adidas representative) Sonny Vaccaro wasn't calling him. He felt abandoned by everyone, and I was there trying to be his friend. If my son's the No. 1 player in the country, I'm in New York and he's in Vegas, he's been kicked out of school and it looks like his college career is over, I would hope somebody would look after him until he gets home. I didn't see any problem with him staying at my house. He wasn't on scholarship.

Sun: Even though you are a UNLV booster, you felt since UNLV had released Odom, he had no further connection to UNLV, so it was OK for him to live with you and accept things from you?

DC: Right. If I was an outsider and I thought he had a chance to get back into UNLV, I might think otherwise. But from the inside, I knew Bayno was like, "Get him the hell out of (town)." So I knew (Odom) was done at UNLV.

Sun: But even after Bayno told you that, Odom was still at your home?

DC: Right. Where was he going to go? In New York, his house is (run down) and it's always full of people, and if he's got anything in his pockets, it's going to come up missing. So I thought, why rush him out of town when he can do some stuff here?

Sun: Were you planning to be his agent?

DC: No, but once he said he was going into the (1998) draft, I told him I would get my business partner (Roger Peltyn) to check with some of his business connections to help him find an agent.

(On August 14, 1997, Chapman and Peltyn -- a sometimes boxing manager -- incorporated R&D Sports Management with the Nevada Secretary of State. Chrisman said the company wasn't started explicitly to handle Odom's business affairs, saying that the paperwork for the corporation had been filed several months earlier, long before Odom arrived in Las Vegas.)

Sun: Around that time, you began to screen offers for Odom from the Harlem Globetrotters and foreign pro teams?

DC: Someone gave out my number and I started getting faxes at home from teams in Greece, the Globetrotters, Johnnie Cochran. I still have (a copy of an offer) from Johnnie Cochran that said if I delivered him Lamar Odom, he'd give me 25 percent of everything he made from him. Even when Lamar was in school, (Cochran) was trying to make contact with him.

Sun: After Odom left Las Vegas and enrolled at Rhode Island in 1998, you provided money for airfare and a hotel stay in Las Vegas. UNLV agrees that this was a violation. Did you consider these benefits as loans, gifts or investments in a business relationship?

DC: Basically loans. Lamar called me (from New York) and said he was tired of school (he hadn't yet become eligible to play at Rhode Island, but was enrolled). He wanted to come to Vegas and start getting ready for the draft. He said he was planning to quit school. This was during (final exams) of his first semester. He came to Las Vegas, and we were in his hotel room (at the Golden Nugget) watching ESPN and his picture came flashing on the screen. It said, "Lamar Odom, AWOL again." It was because he left Rhode Island during exams.

Sun: Did you keep records of everything you gave Odom? Since it was the start of a business relationship, that would seem prudent.

DC: I kept track in my mind. It wasn't like there was a set thing. If Lamar needed something, I helped him out.

Sun: Have you been paid back by Odom?

DC: Yes, he has paid me in full.

Sun: Do you have any relationship with Odom now?

DC: It's getting more distant. His grandmother is in the hospital right now and I sent her some flowers last week. He called and thanked me, and he said I was the only one who sent flowers. I would say I talk to him every eight to 10 days.

Sun: But don't you feel betrayed by Odom because of his testimony? It has put you in hot water, as well as UNLV.

DC: Like I said, I'm naive. People tell me I shouldn't even talk to that kid. In his defense, he called me right after (his testimony) and said he was pressured into saying some things, and unless he did, they weren't going to make him eligible (at Rhode Island). They told him that they couldn't do anything to me. That's what they sold Lamar on. But he didn't know that the school could do something to me. * * *

TUESDAY: Chapman's ties to Bayno and his program.