Baylor University President Speaks After Meeting With TeamAug. 11, 2003
Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and senior Matt Sayman each spoke to the media Monday, Aug. 11, following a two-hour meeting with members of the men's basketball team and their families.
The news release also can be found at BaylorBears.com.
President Robert B. Sloan Jr.
"I just had the opportunity to speak to the parents and players related to our men's basketball team. We had a very good time of discussion together. As you can imagine, it was a time for people to express their opinions. There were all kinds of feelings in the room. Frustration, tears, commitment - all kinds of emotions in the room. It was certainly one of the more unusual experiences I've ever had as a college president, but one for which I am extremely grateful. The people in that room are parents and players who have a enormous amount of integrity, courage and commitment, and it was quite a positive experience.
Tomorrow I will be announcing the names who will be on the search committee for our two searches that are going on. It is our intent to have a parallel or simultaneous search process going on, both for athletic director and a head men's basketball coach. In fact, already some preliminary work is underway, but it will be tomorrow when I will announce the names of the members of the search committee to you. Our intent is to carry on both searches simultaneously. In an ideal world, you would select an athletic director first, then have the athletic director work to bring in the head coach, but it is important for us, given the time issues, to be able to move rapidly."
Question: What was the meeting about?
"The essence of it had to do with circumstances for each individual player, because as you know, we did something that I'm told is unprecedented in terms of the NCAA and situations such as this, and that is that we expressed our willingness immediately to grant releases to players so that other schools would be free to recruit them. As you know, NCAA rules are often very complex, and those rules differ depending on whether one is an entering freshman but never enrolled, only with a letter of intent, or if someone is already enrolled. We discussed those sorts of issues, tried to answer the specific questions of some of the families."
Question: Have any of the players given you any indication of what their future holds?
"A number of them have, but I don't feel at liberty to speak for them. I think they are all of a mindset that these are private decisions, and they want further time to think and reflect on it. I was very encouraged by the tone of the meeting and by the things I heard expressed."
Question: Is there any indication that any university money was involved in paying players?
"We are accepting responsibility for everything that we know about. We are dealing with that. The investigation is ongoing. We have, I think, acted very quickly thus far. The investigation is moving along very deliberately but in a way that indicates a deliberate speed. Some of these matters I cannot yet disclose, but you asked about university funding. I want to make a comment about the Sixth Man Club, because that has come up and may be part of what you are alluding to. The Sixth Man Club is simply another giving level at the university. It is not an invitation-only booster organization. It is an organization that people may participate in because of their level of giving, which indicates their level of interest in men's basketball. Those funds all come through Baylor University. They all go through the accounting processes of the university. We are continuing to look at that in our own internal audit. Our own internal investigation committee has not covered every detail of that, but thus far, I have no knowledge of any booster money being involved in the improper payments. That's really all I can say at this point."
Question: Do you know where the tuition money came from?
"I know of absolutely no evidence of a slush fund. Certainly all of that [where the money came from] will come out in our NCAA process. For various reasons, it would not be appropriate at this particular time to name the source of that."
Question: Was the Sixth Man fund audited recently?
"Our athletic department actually went through an internal audit as a matter of routine very recently, so as part of a general internal audit that started several months ago, all the financial records of the athletic department were looked at, through that routine audit. There is right now a particular look going on at that organization, and the others; I don't want to single that one out. We're looking at all our university funds, and trying to account for everything with respect to athletic dollars."
Question: Who will the search committee report to?
"General university policy is this: the board of regents hires and fires the president, and the president is ultimately responsible for hiring and firing everyone else. That would be true in this matter, as well. Now, we could well have regent participation on the committee, as we have before in athletic searches, but they will make a recommendation to me."
Question: Are you looking to make a permanent hire, as opposed to finding an interim solution?
"That is our intent. I wouldn't want to rule out any possibilities, because you never know what circumstances can emerge. But it is our intent. Baylor University is committed to intercollegiate athletics at the varsity level in a major conference. We are committed to competitive excellence with integrity, as one of the points of our 10-year vision indicates. That is a strong commitment of this university. We are looking for a coach who brings the experience, the excellence, all of the values that are appropriate four our university to the table. We want to move as quickly as we can, while also being careful and diligent in the search."
Question: Did you act so quickly with sanctions because you wanted to avoid worse sanctions from the NCAA?
"As soon as we had knowledge of major violations, we knew that we needed to act with initiative and dispatch as a university. We wanted to self-impose; the NCAA is an organization that primarily has at its heart voluntary compliance, and that's the character of Baylor University. We want to do what we need to do because it's the right thing to do. We looked at the NCAA policies, which say the kinds of penalties that an institution is subject to given a major violation. We looked at those; they're in the NCAA handbook. We imposed sanctions that we think fit given what we know now. The investigation is ongoing; there may well be other self-imposed sanctions that we will go through. We are communicating with our conference, we are communicating with the NCAA, and of course the final decision as to whether we've been hard enough or too hard will rest with the NCAA."
Question: What can you tell us about the drug testing?
"I don't have any more information with regard to the drug-testing situation than I did last Friday, but there are some matters that I cannot disclose because of privacy laws. But as I said the other day, we have put in place a new protocol that will both simplify the number of steps and will include a very clear protocol. The same place, the Baylor Health center, is used. It's an observed test under the same circumstances in every instance, and there is an automatic reporting process."
Question: A lot of talk is swirling about possibly hiring John Lucas, Jr. to coach the team; is he a strong candidate?
"I certainly have heard the rumors and seen the reports in the media. There are a number of good names. Mr. Lucas is an individual I personally respect a great deal because of the things he has gone through and the character he has exhibited. But again, we have a process that has begun in some ways already, and we'll make the appropriate contacts throughout the industry to gather up as rapidly as we can a list of people in terms of the head men's basketball coach, and we'll do the same thing with the AD search."
Question: How has the integrity of Baylor University been affected by all the negative news that has surfaced during the past year?
"I can't predict what goes through a person's mind. I know that we continue to get very positive feedback about the university. One of the ways you measure the public response is in terms of fund raising. Our fund raising right now is seven million dollars ahead of where it was last year. Another way to try to measure public response is through student recruitment. We had a record number of inquiries and applications this last year for Baylor University. Our student numbers are ahead of last year. They are slightly behind two years ago and slightly behind our target number, but our SAT numbers are holding up. There you have two ways of measuring it. Then there are other ways of measuring: e-mails, phone calls - both of those are overwhelmingly in favor of and in support of the 10-year vision of this university. I travel around and get extremely positive support for the university. These are very difficult times; I don't want to minimize that in the least. There have been a lot of challenges, beginning with in many ways the first play of football season last year out in California. There have been a lot of challenges, but Baylor University is resilient, is strong, is a place of integrity, is a place where we continue to work no matter what the circumstances. Having been around for 158 years, I am confident that Baylor University will go forward in strength."
Question: Was Tom Stanton's resignation of his own doing, or was it a forced resignation?
"It was exactly as I said it was; it was a resignation I received with great reluctance. Tom Stanton had absolutely no involvement or knowledge whatsoever with any of the infractions we have dealt with. Tom Stanton, I think, will go down in history as one of the finest athletic directors that Baylor has ever had. You can look around at the facilities we have, the solid standing we have in the Big 12, the championships we have won, the graduation rate, the funds that have been raised, the growth of the Bear Foundation - Tom has done a remarkable job. Tom is the one who took the initiative and came to me and insisted that I accept his resignation."
Question: Have all of the assistant coaches resigned?
"I cannot confirm that, because I don't want to speak to personnel issues. But that's not my understanding."
Question: Did Bliss receive a financial settlement?
"We cannot and do not talk about contractual arrangements, but I would say this generally: contracts of this sort typically would indicate what happens in the case of the death of a coach, or what would happen in the resignation of a coach, or what would happen in dismissal for cause or dismissal for no cause. Contracts typically do that; that would be a standard within the industry. We will follow with fairness and precision the terms of the contract."
Question: Do you have a time frame for making these hirings?
"Yesterday is when we really want it done. It's the kind of thing that we obviously have to be thorough; we cannot be hasty. We must make sure that we have a person who is a great fit for Baylor University, a person with experience, a person of competitive excellence, a person who has the capacity to come into a situation like this and build the kind of team unity and rapport with players on a rapid basis and have community support. Obviously we are looking for a very strong individual, so we have to be thorough, yet on the other hand, there's a time situation here where by the middle of October, I think it is, observed practice can start, so certainly we want to move as rapidly as we can while still having good judgment."
Question: What exactly are the NCAA transfer rules in this case?
"I believe there's been a little bit of a misunderstanding I've seen in some of the reports. We are offering, if requested, a release to all players. The fact that we extend that without any question does not leave out the NCAA process. The NCAA rule is that an enrolled player must, if he/she wants to transfer to another institution, it requires the release from, say, our institution (which we already said we will give), but that player must also sit out for a year in any transfer situation. What we have said is that we will support a petition to waive that requirement before the NCAA, but that's the NCAA's decision, and there are not many (if any) instances that I know of where that waiver was permitted. However, these are obviously very unusual circumstances, and it's on the basis of the unusual circumstances and my own belief that if I was a parent of a student-athlete in that situation, that's what I would want - on that basis, that's why Baylor has done what I think is unprecedented, which is to immediately grant those releases to any one who wants the opportunity to be recruited by another institution. Then they would have to go through an NCAA process that would require a waiver not to have to sit out a year."
Question: What triggered Friday's remarks and the press conference?
"What triggered my remarks was the fact that Coach Bliss came to me and resigned, and that our investigative committee made me aware of major infractions. With that knowledge, I accepted Coach Bliss' resignation, and we prepared the release, the words of which I stand by, and we immediately self-imposed sanctions appropriate with the violations we know about. We're leaving the door open; there may be other self-imposed sanctions that we will need to do. The investigation is continuing, and I can tell you that our four committee members continue to work very hard and very diligently tracking down every possible lead."
Matt Sayman, senior team captain
Question: Are you returning to play for Baylor next year?
"Yes, I have decided I am going to stay. Along with that, I talked to R.T., who is staying, and Harvey Thomas."
Question: Why are you coming back?
"I can't speak for them, but for me, it's because I love the university. I came here half for Coach Bliss, half because I knew what Baylor stands for, the Christian background that it has. I love the campus, love the students, have many friends here, and of course the Baylor degree - it's a good thing to have."
Question: Have you ever been offered money, or know of any such payments?
"I've never been aware of anything."
Question: What are the other players thinking?
"I honestly haven't talked to anybody else. We just had a nice little family meeting down there. What happened down there is going to stay there. I didn't talk to anybody besides R.T. and Harvey about it."
Question: What were the emotions in today's meeting?
"Everybody's hurting a lot. Not only because of the future and what's happened with the university, but we you know we lost two teammates that we both knew and cared about. That's always hard. Like Dr. Sloan said, a lot of emotional frustration and just wanting for everything to settle down."
Question: Will you try to persuade other players to come back?
"I don't know if I can talk anybody into staying, but I know that if they do decide to stay, we will gladly welcome them back, the community will and the university, and I hope they do."
Question: What are you looking for in a new coach?
"Dr. Sloan depicted the kind of coach that we'd like to have. And we had a great one. Coach Bliss was one of the greatest men I've ever known; he taught me a lot about life and basketball. I really believe someone in his line would be a good coach."
Question: Have you had the opportunity to talk to Coach Bliss?
"He was in the meeting, but we have not been able to talk to him."
Question: Do you know anything about the allegations of drugs on the team?
"In my three years, I've never once noticed anything or seen anything or heard anything, so I don't know what that's all about."
Question: With all that has happened, how can you go out and play and have a normal season?
"It's just to be able to compete. Because no matter what, postseason or not, we're going to be able to play against good players in the Big 12. And we're going to Hawaii, you know; who doesn't want to do that? It's just the honor in it, too. We have nothing to lose. We're going to go and play hard and try to gain people's respect as we go, and maybe get a couple of wins along the way."