WACO, Texas (ABP) — Baylor University assessed additional penalties on its men's basketball program Feb. 26, citing an internal review that uncovered widespread violations in recruiting, finances and drug testing.
The Baylor basketball scandal broke last summer, after player Patrick Dennehy disappeared and subsequently was found murdered. Another player, Carlton Dotson, has been charged with the murder.
The internal review, which began in late July, quickly discovered problems with the program operated by former Coach Dave Bliss. By early August, the review committee confirmed enough NCAA rules violations to force the Aug. 8 resignations of Bliss and Athletic Director Tom Stanton.
At that time, the university levied initial punishment against the program: two years' probation; voluntary withdrawal from post-season play, including the Big 12 athletic conference tournament, in 2003-04; and release of scholarship obligations to every men's basketball player, which resulted in the transfer of four team members.
Seven months later, Baylor President Robert Sloan announced additional penalties: three years' probation; elimination of nine scholarships between 2004 and 2006; reductions in expenses-paid recruiting visits, coaches recruiting off campus and days allowed to evaluate potential recruits; reduction in exhibition games in 2004-05; and recertification of Baylor's athletics policies to verify they conform to NCAA rules.
The severity of the sanctions reflects the depth and breadth of the violations in Bliss' program, Sloan acknowledged at a news conference in which he detailed those violations. They include:
— Bliss personally paid the tuition of two basketball players outside the university's athletic scholarship procedures. Rather than an act of generosity, this amounted to creation of an expanded scholarship system, explained Bill Underwood, a Baylor law professor and member of the investigative committee, and Kirk Watson, former mayor of Austin and independent counsel to the committee.
Bliss recruited more players than he could offer scholarships, hedging that some of them might not be academically eligible, they said. But when the scholarship players maintained eligibility, Bliss paid the tuition himself in order to cover up his recruiting violations and keep the backup players available as “walk-ons.”
— Under Bliss, players received meals, lodging, transportation and clothing in violation of NCAA rules. The basketball staff sometimes paid for athletes' lodging, the committee discovered. Players also received free airline and taxi transportation, and some players received clothes, tennis shoes and money for food, all against NCAA policy.
— The basketball staff failed to handle positive drug tests.
— On at least one occasion, coaches paid tuition for a player to attend nearby McClennan Community College.
— Bliss solicited donations from Baylor basketball boosters to support a summer basketball league that involved prospective players. The investigative committee determined that, while Bliss knew this procedure violated NCAA rules, the donors were not informed about the rules and were innocent of violations themselves.
— The university's oversight structure failed to detect the violations, even though administrators should have noticed “red flags” indicating the basketball program had gone awry.
Both Sloan and Underwood explicitly said they were embarrassed for Baylor to be in this position, but they vowed to take steps to prevent future athletic scandal.
Grant Teaff, former Baylor football coach and head of the American Football Coaches' Association, will lead a task force to help the university recruit athletes who have a better chance of academic qualification.
The athletic compliance staff has been increased from two full-time employees to three. The compliance staff will report to the investigative committee in both 2005 and 2006.
The university also has launched a new drug-testing system designed to prevent corruption, Sloan said. It will remove athletic officials from the process, and it will report violations to administrators with disciplinary responsibilities outside the athletic program.
Baylor asked the Big 12 Conference to audit its athletic department's compliance with NCAA rules.
The university's financial aid office will more closely monitor fee payments from non-scholarship athletes.
Baylor will increase its education regarding NCAA rules, providing more information not only to athletics staff but to boosters in Dallas, Houston and Waco.
The basketball team will discontinue exhibition games with teams affiliated with summer basketball programs.
Watson and Underwood said Bliss, who now lives in Colorado, helped the committee clarify its report and even confirmed areas of violation. The committee interviewed Bliss five times.
Sloan praised the committee for its work, which sometimes demanded 20-hour days.
“The investigative committee has lived up to its mandate of conducting a thorough and aggressive investigation of the basketball program,” Sloan noted. “By doing so, the committee has assisted the university in seeking to achieve its core convictions of honesty, integrity, openness and accountability.”
The NCAA probably will not respond to the report or consider any other sanctions for several months, the Dallas Morning News reported.