Baylor committed to staying in Big 12

Updated: August 20, 2003, 8:24 PM ET

WACO, Texas -- A player killed, NCAA violations and an attempted coverup of misdeeds by the head coach have raised questions about the future of the men's basketball program at Baylor and whether the school needs to stay in the Big 12.

But even after a summer of scandal, it appears unlikely the Big 12's smallest and only private school will leave the conference, either on its own or forced out by the league.

"Our commitment certainly is to remain in the Big 12," Baylor President Robert Sloan Jr., said this week. "The answer is not to run away from problems but to face them. Very clearly, we face some problems."

Baylor's football and men's basketball teams -- typically the money makers of any athletic program -- routinely finish at or near the bottom of the league. The football team has won four conference games in seven seasons. The Waco Tribune-Herald has reported the athletic program ran a deficit of $9.1 million last year.

While Baylor's troubles have become a hot topic for Texas editorial pages, Internet message boards and radio talk shows, Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg said he's heard no rumblings of discontent from the league's other members.

"We've received no calls from (members) suggesting Baylor should go," Weiberg said. The only comments he's heard have been "appropriately supportive" in hopes that Baylor can sort out its basketball problems.

Big 12 bylaws require nine members to vote to expel a school, something several school presidents have said is unlikely.

"I don't think that would be a good idea," Kansas President Robert Hemenway said. "My personal feeling is they have a very tragic situation. I have great respect for President Sloan and his moral judgment and I'm sure that he will right the ship."

The bylaws don't list criteria for adding or subtracting members, Weiberg said. They were designed more to protect the league from schools who might want to leave for another conference.

Even if the league wanted to dismiss Baylor, that would mean finding a replacement school, which comes with its own complications because of scheduling and contractual obligations. And if Baylor wanted to leave on its own, where would it go?

Under even normal circumstances, leaving the Big 12 would be a difficult decision. For Baylor, this summer has been nothing but bizarre.

Former player Patrick Dennehy was found shot to death July 25, allegedly by former teammate Carlton Dotson, who sits in a Maryland jail awaiting extradition to Texas to face charges.

The investigation into Dennehy's disappearance and death uncovered that Dave Bliss, who resigned as coach Aug. 8, had paid the tuition for Dennehy and another player, an NCAA violation. It also found that failed drug tests by players weren't properly reported.

Then Bliss was caught last week trying to cover up the tuition payments with a plot to portray Dennehy as a drug dealer.

The university is investigating and has self-imposed two years' probation, including a ban on next season's Big 12 tournament.

During an online chat with fans Monday, Sloan dismissed the idea of imposing a one-year death penalty on the program to give Baylor time to hire a new coach and rebuild its team. At least three players, including leading scorer and rebounder Lawrence Roberts, have decided to transfer.

If the exodus continues, the Bears might be left scrambling to put a team on the floor for the 2003-04 season.

Sloan insists Baylor can be competitive in the Big 12, noting the school's massive upgrade of facilities and recent successes in other sports, such as baseball and women's basketball. Leaving the league would cost the school $5 million to $6 million in revenue sharing.

"While we have not been as competitive, obviously, in football or men's basketball as we want to be, we nonetheless are strong, contributing members of a great conference," Sloan said. "We owe it to our conference to participate."

Drayton McLane, chairman of the Baylor board of regents, agreed with Sloan and said the president has his full support.

"Baylor is an important member of the Big 12," McLane said. "Overall, Baylor has had great teams in other sports ... the Big 12 is more than football and basketball."

Even Gov. Rick Perry chimed in Wednesday.

"Of course Baylor should stay in the Big 12," said Perry, a Texas A&M graduate. "They're a good school."

Others aren't so sure.

Randall Fields was a member of the Baylor board of regents for nine years and was chairman when the Big 12 started play. He said Baylor officials thought long and hard about whether the school belonged in the league.

Fields said it's time for a re-evaluation, even if it means getting out of the league. The world's largest Baptist university must decide if the pressure of competing at such a high level contributed to the problems, he said.

"You have to wonder about when the tail starts to wag the dog," Fields said. "We're going to have to take a long hard look at athletics. I'm in favor of taking a look at whatever it takes, to doing whatever it takes, and emphasizing the reason we have a university and that's teaching students."

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