Archive for Saturday, August 9, 2003

Bliss, AD resign at Baylor

Indiscretions revealed in wake of Dennehy saga

August 9, 2003


— Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss resigned Friday over major violations in his program uncovered following the disappearance and death of a player and charges he was killed by a former teammate.

"I'm the head coach, and I'm accountable for everything that goes on in my program," Bliss said in a hastily arranged campus news conference. "I accept that responsibility. I intend to cooperate fully as the inquiry continues. I'll do whatever I can to make things right."

After Bliss' brief resignation announcement, Baylor president Robert Sloan said the school's investigation committee already had discovered major violations regarding players getting paid and improper drug testing.

He put the program on probation for up to two years, saying it would not participate in any postseason tournaments next season, including the Big 12 Conference tournament. He also offered to allow any player to transfer.

"Additional sanctions may be imposed as the investigation continues," Sloan said.

Sloan also said athletic director Tom Stanton, who hired Bliss, was resigning, even though he "had no direct knowledge of any of the infractions."

Since 6-foot-10 junior forward Patrick Dennehy was reported missing in mid-June, Bliss has been scrutinized for everything from who he recruited to how closely he oversaw the team.

Sloan said two players -- he didn't provide names -- had their scholarships paid for by a third party. A school statement said, "the head men's basketball coach has admitted involvement in these infractions."

Sloan also said there were "instances in which staff members had knowledge of student-athletes' use of substances on the list of banned drugs and failed to follow institutional procedures." He said all future drug screening will be done by nurses at Baylor Health Center.

Bliss has been guarded since Dennehy disappeared. He read prepared statements several times and limited his media exposure. Through it all, he steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

"We have followed the rules, however difficult they may be, for 30 years," Bliss said July 28.

He also said that, as far as he knew, his players had no more to do with drugs "than the man in the moon."

Dennehy's girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa, said in a telephone interview from California, where Dennehy's memorial service was held, she wasn't surprised by the announcements, just the timing.

She wouldn't comment on whether she had spoken to Baylor investigators.

"My focus has been on Patrick. I'm still trying to adjust that he's still not here," she said.

Dennehy's family complained that coaches didn't take seriously threats he had reported receiving.

Dennehy's body was found last month in Waco near a rock quarry. Carlton Dotson, 21, Dennehy's roommate and former teammate, was arrested and charged with his murder July 21, after reportedly telling authorities he shot Dennehy when Dennehy tried to shoot him.

Sloan and Bliss were among nearly a dozen Baylor officials who attended the memorial service for Dennehy Thursday in San Jose. Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university with 14,000 students, will hold its own memorial Aug. 28 on campus.

Bliss, 59, has been a Division I coach for 28 seasons, working previously at Oklahoma, SMU and New Mexico. He arrived at Baylor in 1999 and in four years began turning around a program that had been placed on NCAA probation twice since the mid-1980s.

Baylor was 14-14 last season, but just 5-11 in the Big 12. The Bears were 61-57 in his tenure.

Dennehy, a transfer from New Mexico transfer who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, was reported missing by his family June 19, about a week after he was last seen on campus.

Baylor announced that Dennehy had disappeared and asked the public to help find him after his Chevy Tahoe was found June 25 in Virginia Beach, Va.

Dotson remains jailed without bond in his home state of Maryland and awaits extradition to Texas, which could take as long as three months.

After his arrest, Dotson told the Associated Press he "didn't confess to anything."

Bliss said Friday he resigned after being "made aware of some situations within our program."

"These were rules that over the years I've had great respect for. Despite things that have been said, we've tried to work real hard for 28 years to have a chance to work with young people," Bliss said.

Bliss left the room and did not answer questions following his brief resignation announcement. Stanton joined Sloan at a news conference following Bliss' announcement but did not speak.

Stanton, who was in his sixth year as AD at his alma mater, will remain on the job until his successor is named. Sloan said the school hadn't even thought yet about how it will replace Bliss.

None of the schools where Bliss has coached have been cited for NCAA infractions while he was there. However, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported last week that Bliss left SMU months after an NCAA investigation uncovered evidence of what would typically be considered major rules violations, including booster payments to a player.

Baylor began its probe after allegations surfaced that a coach told Dennehy his education and living expenses would be paid if he gave up his scholarship for a year. The committee also examined whether Dennehy received $1,200 to $1,800 from an assistant coach toward a car loan for his sport utility vehicle, and if players passed urine tests despite smoking marijuana.

The NCAA put Baylor on five-year probation in 1994 after an investigation found that coaches were illegally doing correspondence work for players. An FBI inquiry resulted in mail and wire fraud convictions against three assistant coaches. Former head coach Darrel Johnson was fired.

In 1986, the Baylor basketball team was slapped with a two-year probation after the NCAA said it provided cash, transportation and other illegal benefits to players. A player secretly recorded a conversation in which former head coach Jim Haller agreed to give him $172 for a car payment.

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