Lobo colleagues find nothing comparable to Baylor woes

Updated: August 8, 2003, 11:10 PM ET

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Dave Bliss helped Kenny Thomas take the NCAA to court in 1995 over the freshman's right to play college basketball. It was Bliss' only New Mexico skirmish with college sports' top regulatory body.

"The men's basketball program had no major infractions in Dave's 11 years here," said Greg Remington, UNM sports information director. "Dave's program while he was at New Mexico was run very well."

Remington said there had been plenty of opportunity for signs to show if there had been anything wrong here.

"Given all the timespan involved, I certainly think we would be aware of any NCAA violations," he said.

Bliss resigned Friday as Baylor head coach amid reports by school officials of numerous National Collegiate Athletic Association violations.

One allegation was that Patrick Dennehy, a player whose decomposing body was found late last month near Waco, had received blank checks from a Baylor assistant coach to help him get by without a scholarship, according to The Dallas Morning News. A Baylor teammate, Carlton Dotson, has been arrested in the killing.

Brian O'Neill, another Baylor assistant who left the Bears in April and returned to Albuquerque, said he was unaware of any violations during his tenure with the Baylor program. When he resigned in April to be closer to his wife and children, O'Neill said he was in good standing with Baylor "so therefore I don't feel that I'm associated with what's going on."

O'Neill called Bliss a "stand-up guy" who would have had a hard time coaching under a "dark cloud" of controversy.

O'Neill worked for Bliss at New Mexico from 1998 to 1999 and then followed Bliss to Baylor.

"Once you start an internal investigation in your school or any school," O'Neill said, "some dirt is going to come up in some cases. And with all the negative publicity swirling around Pat (Dennehy) ... there was going to be some other disheartening things that would come out."

In 1995, Bliss helped Kenny Thomas in his battle with the NCAA, which had alleged that Thomas was a half-credit short when he left his high school in El Paso, Texas, and moved up the Rio Grande to Albuquerque High and UNM.

State District Judge Daniel Schneider ruled here that Thomas -- then one of the nation's top 15 freshman basketball prospects -- would suffer irreparable harm by not being allowed to complete his freshman season.

The court decision came after 2{ days of testimony by officials of UNM, the NCAA and by Thomas himself, who now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers.

But the judge said his ruling was partly based on his belief that Thomas would win his lawsuit against the NCAA if it went to trial.

Schneider said he was impressed with Thomas' academic persistence.

"I'm convinced he is smart enough to play with any dumb jock out there," the judge said.

Bliss had testified that Thomas would be a campus leper and pariah if denied the right to practice and play with his teammates.

Schneider said he was persuaded by that.

Bliss suggested his own appearance in court was a duty he owed Thomas and other young players.

"Otherwise I would be leaving that kid and hundreds of others that have questions," Bliss said.

He added: "We didn't beat the NCAA today. I choose to think that the NCAA won. Kenny Thomas won."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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