Panel wants background checks for recruits

Updated: June 21, 2004, 5:35 PM ET
Associated Press

All student-athletes transferring to Baylor University should undergo criminal background checks and allow access to records of disciplinary actions at previous colleges, a task force said Monday.

Several recruiting policy recommendations were made by the Waco university's task force, formed to address NCAA violations and other problems discovered last summer after Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was killed. His former teammate, Carlton Dotson, was charged with murder and is jailed in Waco awaiting an August trial.

Dennehy and Dotson transferred to Baylor in the summer of 2002, but Baylor officials said there's no way to predict what would have happened if the policies had been in place.

The task force also recommended requiring all prospective student-athletes -- incoming freshmen as well as transfers -- to provide three character references. The references must use a Baylor form designed to evaluate social decision making, peer group interactions, dependability, self-discipline and contributions to the community.

"With the successful implementation of these measures, we certainly think we can avoid any type of situation that is going to cause embarrassment to Baylor," said Ian McCaw, Baylor's athletic director since September. "This really demonstrates a commitment to the student-athletes' welfare and success."

Also for the first time, a committee appointed by Baylor's president would review the reference and background information on prospective transfers before they are accepted. Information on freshmen would be reviewed by the athletic department.

Baylor's president, Robert Sloan, is expected to approve the recommendations. They would be implemented gradually, starting with recruits for 2005-06 in one men's sport and one women's. The school hasn't decided which sports.

The 6-foot-10 Dennehy played two years at the University of New Mexico, where his sophomore season was clouded by problems. During a game in 2002 Dennehy shoved a teammate, kicked over a chair and stalked off to the locker room.

Because of NCAA eligibility rules, Dennehy sat out the 2002-03 season at Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university with nearly 14,000 students.

Dotson, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Paris Junior College in East Texas, was eligible to play at Baylor but his role on the team steadily decreased. By the end of the 2002-03 season, he and then-coach Dave Bliss agreed that Dotson should play elsewhere, and his scholarship was dropped.

Dennehy's body was found in a field near campus in July after he had been missing about six weeks. He had been shot twice in the head, according to an autopsy report.

Dotson was arrested a few days before his friend was found, but authorities won't say if he led them to Dennehy's body. Dotson's attorneys say they have not decided whether to seek an insanity defense.

In August, Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton resigned amid revelations that Bliss paid up to $40,000 for two players' tuition, and that staff members did not properly report some athletes' failed drug tests.

The task force was formed in March at the suggestion of an internal investigative committee, which submitted its findings to the NCAA in February after a seven-month probe.

That committee came up with self-imposed sanctions, including reduced scholarships, an extra year of probation and reduced contact between coaches and recruits. The school had already banned itself from postseason play this season.

Also Monday, the task force said Baylor should maintain its current academic requirements for student-athletes, saying the standards already are higher than NCAA regulations.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press