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Baylor president: Basketball wrongs ‘never to be repeated’

WACO, Texas (BP)–After a seven-month internal investigation, Baylor University President Robert Sloan officially acknowledged that former basketball coach Dave Bliss made payments to former players, allowed major NCAA infractions and sought to cover up the improprieties during his time at the Baptist-affiliated university.

Sloan, in a Feb. 26 news conference, said the university was taking corrective actions and imposing additional sanctions to “ensure that the deplorable conduct that occurred within the men’s basketball program is never repeated.”

Baylor found itself in the national spotlight last June after university basketball player Patrick Dennehy went missing. In July, he was found shot dead and a former teammate, Carlton Dotson, was charged with the murder.

This led the university to investigate the basketball program, and on Aug. 8, Sloan reported that the university’s preliminary findings denoted wrongful conduct within the basketball program and that there would be a lengthy investigation after which the university would come forward with its findings.

At the time, Sloan imposed a one-year postseason ban (including the Big 12 tournament) on the basketball team.

Bliss, who now works at a sporting goods store in suburban Denver, resigned in August.

Sloan’s Feb. 26 news conference was the follow-up that he promised, but with most of the wrongdoing already known, it was more like a public apology by the university.

At the news conference Sloan announced that the university has added self-imposed penalties on scholarships and extended its probationary period through Aug. 8, 2006.

Baylor is forwarding its investigative committee’s findings to the NCAA, and since the penalties are only self-imposed, they could become harsher.

Sloan, at the news conference, provided new details on money that was spent on players improperly, and he reported that Bliss had solicited money from two university regents.

Bliss had paid the tuition of Dennehy and another player during the 2002-03 season and solicited money from the regents and various others via contributions to the Houston Superstars Foundation, which sponsors Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball leagues that included prospective Baylor players.

Sloan said the contributions amounted to at least $87,000 and at least 17 people were involved, including university regents Jim Turner and Wes Bailey. Statements by both regents have been posted on Baylor’s website in which the two regents state that they are disheartened and angered at having been misled by Bliss.

Sloan also said the committee found that the program had not reported failed drug tests by players.

In all, six major infractions were reported.

All of this just adds to the already arduous task that current Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew has in front of him.

Drew, whose team is 8-18 this season and will have only nine scholarships next year under the ban, told the Associated Press he prefers to think that Baylor has closed a chapter in this sordid affair.

“They’re done with it. I’m encouraged and ready to move on,” Drew said. “We knew there would be more sanctions.”

Baylor already plays with only seven scholarship players this season so he gets to add two more next year, and with two seniors graduating, Drew will be able to sign four new players to his squad.

“Next year we get to go nine [players] so I look at it as we’re gaining,” Drew said. “It’s the quality of guys you bring in. If you have nine quality guys, that is all you need.”

Nevertheless, Sloan and the university as a whole are embarrassed because, as Sloan said during his opening remarks at the news conference, “… Baylor’s commitment goes beyond meeting the requirements of NCAA rules.

“It is a commitment to ourselves and our Lord as a Christian institution,” Sloan said. “Faith, integrity and honesty matter.”
Brian Hand is a graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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