NCAA Places Baylor Basketball Under Probation for Infractions

The NCAA placed Baylor University (BU) basketball team on five years’ probation in addition to one-year ban on non-conference games last Thursday after multiple rules violations.

These violations, discovered following the death of a former basketball player Patrick Dennehy in 2003, resulted in findings of unethical conduct against the former head coach Dave Bliss and three assistant coaches, according to the NCAA news release.

"The coaches' disregard for NCAA rules has tarnished them, the university, and intercollegiate athletics as a whole," said Gene Marsh, chair of the Division I Committee on Infractions and a professor of law at the University of Alabama.

The findings, made public in the Public Infractions Report on June 23, 2005, include drug use, failure to report drug test results and benefits, financial assistance totaling tens of thousands of dollars to athletes, and more than $100,000 in donations directed to amateur teams comprising prospects.

To cover up some of these payments, Bliss tried to convince team members to portray deceased Dennehy, who received some of those payments, as a drug dealer – even provided them with tape recorders to rehearse prior to interview with university investigators.

"He attempted to try to cover up what had occurred to the point of making people practice and record their statements like in a high school play," Marsh told the Associated Press (AP). "It's about as bad as it gets."

If Bliss, who has been placed on a 10-year probation, seeks employment with the NCAA, he and the hiring university are to appear before the Committee on Infractions. One former assistant will be subject to this procedure for seven years and two others for five years.

Marsh said the penalties against the school likewise could have been tougher -- including the "death penalty," which would have closed the basketball program -- if not for the school's "very blunt self-assessment" and earlier self-imposed penalties.

"As a repeat violator, they were subject to the death penalty," Marsh said of Baylor, whose tennis program received sanctions in 2000 for financial aid. "Their penalties and their approach saved their basketball season."
The scandal is also the second to hit the basketball program in the last decade.
The NCAA's findings also revealed academic fraud by three Baylor football players.

Baylor interim President William D. Underwood, the new athletics director, Ian McCaw, and head men's basketball coach Scott Drew, each released a statement regarding the report from the NCAA Committee on Infractions on the men's basketball program.

“Baylor supports the committee’s conclusion that additional sanctions are an appropriate message that this kind of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated,” stated Underwood. “We appreciate the committee’s recognition that Baylor University acted in good faith, has exhibited genuine remorse and has responded to the violations in a decisive and meaningful fashion.”

Commending Baylor’s legal team for their investigation and presentation to the committee, McCaw wrote, “However, I remain optimistic and enthusiastic about the future of Baylor athletics and in particular our men's basketball program under the leadership of Scott Drew."

Drew, stating that the team is ready to bring closure to the episode, he wrote, "Right now my heart goes out to our players, who are obviously very disappointed," he said. "In the Good Book it says ‘He will bring it to pass.’ Our program continues to focus on the future, and we know that it is bright.”