NCAA puts school on probation through 2010
Baylor's men's basketball team was banned from playing nonconference games for one season and placed on five years' probation by the NCAA on Thursday for numerous rules violations found after a former player murdered a teammate in 2003.
Gene Marsh, chairman of the Division I Committee on Infractions and a professor of law at Alabama, said he believes it is the first time the NCAA has instituted a partial ban on regular-season games in basketball.
“ This is the final step in bringing a two-year scandal to a close for the university. ” — William D. Underwood, Baylor's interim president
He said the committee seriously considered banning Baylor's program for a season.
"As a repeat violator, they were subject to the death penalty," Marsh said. "Their penalties and their approach saved their basketball season."
The NCAA has used the death penalty only once -- on the SMU football program in the late 1980s. Marsh said Baylor's violations under former coach Dave Bliss were "as serious" as those committed by SMU.
Baylor was considered a repeat offender because the tennis program received sanctions in 2000 for improper financial aid and extra benefits.
Last week, Carlton Dotson, 23, was sentenced to 35 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in the death of Patrick Dennehy, a killing that led to revelations of wrongdoing in Baylor's program. Dennehy was missing for six weeks before his body was found in July 2003 in a field where the best friends had gone to shoot guns at targets.
"This is the final step in bringing a two-year scandal to a close for the university," said William D. Underwood, Baylor's interim president. "It will never close for some individuals, including the Patrick Dennehy family and the Carlton Dotson family, but this is the final piece in moving beyond the scandal."
The NCAA gave Baylor the option of canceling its nonconference schedule, usually about 15 games a year, this season or next. Underwood, who was on an internal committee investigating the violations, said the Bears would play the shortened season this year.
The Bears will be allowed to play regular-season Big 12 Conference games and participate in the postseason tournament. Although the team will be eligible for NCAA postseason play, it will be difficult to gain enough wins to make the NCAA or NIT tournament without a nonconference schedule.
By August, Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton had resigned in the wake of numerous allegations of NCAA violations.
School investigators later discovered that Bliss paid up to $40,000 in tuition for two players and improperly solicited $87,000 from Baylor boosters. The probe also revealed that staff members did not properly report some players' failed drug tests.
The infractions led to self-imposed sanctions, including a three-year probation, reduced scholarships and reduced contact between coaches and recruits. The school also banned itself from postseason play in the 2003-2004 season, and all players were offered a release from their scholarships.
The NCAA adopted many of Baylor's self-imposed sanctions with Thursday's ruling, although Baylor's reductions in recruiting visits and coaches who can leave campus to recruit were extended by a year.
"Baylor University worked hard to thoroughly investigate this matter and did a very good job of cooperating with the NCAA," Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said. "I am confident that the university is putting in place the kinds of checks and balances to assist in avoiding these problems in the future."
The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions found intentional violations by coaches and attempts to cover up those violations. That led to a conclusion of unethical conduct by Bliss and three former assistants.
Any NCAA school that wants to hire Bliss in the next 10 years must appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine limitations on his activities. One former assistant will be subject to this procedure for seven years and two others for five years.
"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 said of Bliss. "It's about as bad as it gets."
Baylor coach Scott Drew said his team was disappointed but is looking forward to the 2006-07 season when the Bears will regain their scholarships and be eligible for all games.
"Our program continues to focus on the future, and we know that it is bright," he said.
The scandal is the second to hit the basketball program in the last decade.
In 1994, Baylor reduced scholarships, banned itself from postseason play and television appearances and placed itself under a two-year probation after a recruiting and academic fraud scandal under former coach Darrel Johnson.
The NCAA's findings also revealed academic fraud by three Baylor football players.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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