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Bliss Out as Baylor's Coach

He resigns in wake of Dennehy's death, and university president announces sanctions for 'major' violations in basketball program.

August 09, 2003|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

Dave Bliss resigned as Baylor University's basketball coach Friday, a day after attending a memorial service for Patrick Dennehy, the Baylor player authorities allege was murdered by a former teammate.

Scrutiny of the program and players' lives after Dennehy's disappearance in June exposed numerous improprieties and charges of NCAA violations at the school, and Baylor President Robert Sloan said Friday that "major" violations had been confirmed, among them substantial payments to players.

Sloan moved aggressively to rein in the program, announcing a postseason ban for next season and at least two years of probation.

Saying the probation "is unfair to those without fault," Sloan apologized and said the school would release any player who wanted to leave.

Bliss had earlier defended the program against charges of rules violations, but the school charged Friday that he had been aware of at least some of them.

"I'm the head coach and I'm accountable for everything that goes on in my program," Bliss said at a news conference. "I accept that responsibility. I intend to cooperate fully as the inquiry continues."

Sloan also announced that Athletic Director Tom Stanton had resigned. He said Stanton had no direct knowledge of the violations but "accepts responsibility for maintaining the integrity" of the program.

Dennehy had been missing for more than a month when his badly decomposed body was found in a rock quarry near Waco on July 25, four days after Carlton Dotson, 21, his roommate and former teammate, had been arrested and charged with murder. Dennehy died of gunshot wounds to the head.

Relatives and friends of Dennehy had been upset, believing that the basketball staff hadn't taken threats against Dennehy seriously, and they eventually raised more questions about the program.

One such issue was how Dennehy had paid his tuition and rent and made a down payment on an SUV when he was not on scholarship during the last academic year.

"We have concluded that two student-athletes received money for payment of tuition to Baylor that came from a third party," Sloan said in a statement issued by the school. "The head men's basketball coach has admitted involvement in these infractions."

Sloan also said staff members failed to follow the school's procedures for reporting failed drug tests, indicating someone on staff had knowledge of drug use, which Bliss had denied.

Sloan responded by announcing a change in school policy, removing athletic department staff from the testing program.

At a news conference last month, Bliss had sharply denied violating NCAA rules.

"We have followed the rules, however difficult they may be, for 30 years," he said then.

Bliss, 59, previously coached at Oklahoma, Southern Methodist and New Mexico, and none of the schools was cited for violations while Bliss was coach.

However, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had previously reported that Bliss left SMU in 1988 shortly after an internal investigation uncovered major infractions, including booster payments to center Jon Koncak. (A former NCAA investigator told the newspaper his supervisor had told him not to pursue the case because SMU already had received the death penalty for football violations.)

At the Baylor news conference Friday, Bliss said he was resigning after he was "made aware of situations within our program."

The shock of Dennehy's murder and the unfolding scandal have been doubly uncomfortable for the school, considering Baylor's position as a Baptist university. In addition, Sloan has been a longtime leader in the reform movement in college athletics.

"... It goes far beyond commitment to the NCAA," Sloan said. "It is a commitment to ourselves and our Lord as a Christian institution where faith and integrity matter.

"Institutions such as Baylor, that are committed to higher standards, must hold themselves to those higher standards."

Sloan called the sanctions "strong" but "preliminary" and said more might be imposed.

"The investigation is not complete," he said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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