Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

Baylor’s probe finds Bliss paid players

February 27, 2004


— Former Baylor University basketball coach Dave Bliss made payments to players, allowed major NCAA infractions and then tried to cover up the improprieties, the school president said Thursday.

In summing up a seven-month internal investigation, President Robert Sloan said Baylor "failed to exercise appropriate institutional control" and missed clues that could have stopped wrongdoing by Bliss.

The school will send its report next week to the NCAA, which could impose even harsher sanctions or accept Baylor's self-imposed penalties of reduced scholarships, an additional year of probation and a one-year ban on postseason play.

Most of the violations had been acknowledged by the school before Thursday's news conference, which was much like a public apology. Sloan provided new details on money improperly spent on players, and he disclosed that Bliss had solicited money from two university regents.

"The university is embarrassed," Sloan said. "There were red flags that should have been noticed."

The report on the basketball program was ordered after Patrick Dennehy was found dead in July and another player was charged with his murder. Bliss resigned in August.

Dennehy was reported missing in June, and his body was found a few weeks later. Former teammate Carlton Dotson was charged with his shooting death and is jailed in Waco awaiting trial.

The committee found evidence that Bliss paid the tuition for Dennehy and another player during the 2002-03 season, and the program did not report some players' failed drug tests, Sloan said.

Sloan said Bliss and Baylor "failed to exercise appropriate institutional control."

Lawyers for Bliss, who resigned in August and now works at a sporting goods store in suburban Denver, didn't return calls Thursday.

Already under a self-imposed ban on postseason play this year, Sloan announced one more year of probation and drastic scholarship reductions for the next two seasons. He also said there would be reduced contact with recruits by coach Scott Drew and his staff.

The school will cut scholarships from 13 to nine for next season and from 13 to 12 in 2005-06. The reduction will probably have a significant impact on Drew's ability to recruit.

Three key players left Baylor last summer as the scandal mounted, and another key recruit never came to Baylor, which is 8-18 this season.

Bill Underwood, a Baylor law professor who sat on the investigations committee, said the self-imposed sanctions were not specifically imposed to deflect the NCAA.

"That's really not the ultimate question for us, trying to guess what the NCAA will do and beat them to the game," Underwood said. "What we tried to do is determine what we think is appropriate."

The NCAA could not comment because it had not yet seen the school's findings, spokesman Jeff Howard said. He said the NCAA had been in communication with Baylor.

Investigators found Bliss would recruit "backup" players to be on standby in case a scholarship athlete was academically ineligible. If the scholarship player qualified, Bliss was stuck with an athlete on campus who expected his tuition and expenses paid.

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