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More Bliss violations uncovered

Feb. 27, 2004

By Matt Richards, reporter

President Robert B. Sloan Jr., along with Baylor Internal Compliance Investigation Committee members Bill Underwood, Kirk Watson and David Guinn, announced on Thursday the findings and new sanctions to be imposed on the men's basketball program. Sanctions placed on the team will be added to those imposed during the summer.

'I am announcing today that the investigation committee has completed this phase of its work,' Sloan said. 'Baylor University will report the committee's findings along with self-imposed sanctions and corrective measure to the NCAA early next week.'

At the announcement, Sloan and members of the committee addressed the history of rules violations during the head Coach Dave Bliss era in detail, beginning with this summer's findings.

On Aug. 8, Sloan and the committee announced that improper educational payments on behalf of two students, arrangement and payment of meals and transportation for more than one student-athlete, a failure to report positive drug test results and a lack of institutional control had occurred. The announcement resulted in the resignation of Bliss and Athletic Director Tom Stanton.

In correlation to the August announcement, Sloan placed the men's basketball program on a voluntary two-year probation, a ban on postseason play for 2003-2004 and offered an immediate scholarship release to any player.

In Thursday's announcement, Sloan revealed several more infractions. The committee discovered that Bliss and his staff had made improper tuition payments to another institution on behalf of a prospective player; had coerced at least two Baylor regents, Jim Turner and Wes Bailey, to make contributions amounting to $87,000 to an AAU charitable organization and had lied to conceal infractions.

'The former head men's basketball coach obviously failed to adequately supervise his staff and then actively participated in numerous major infractions,' Sloan said. 'The university is embarrassed that its various administrative systems allowed these infractions to go undiscovered. There were red flags that should have been noticed.'

According to Underwood and Watson, Bliss violated rules by making a tuition payment of $336 to McLennan County Community College in May 2003 for a potential player.

Watson also elaborated on the improper tuition payments made on behalf of Baylor players. Watson said Bliss purposefully overrecruited because he believed several active scholarship players would be deemed academically ineligible. Bliss planned to fill those roster spots once those players were ineligible. However, the predicament arose when those players he thought would be ineligible were declared eligible.

Instead of sending the overrecruited players home, Bliss made the conscious decision to pay for their tuitions using improper funds.

'I think Bliss faced a situation where he overrecruited,' Underwood said. 'Instead of doing the right thing and sending them home, he worked out private arrangements to pay for tuition.'

Bliss used cashier's checks and money orders from personal accounts to cover tuition expenses of active players. Once confronted with the evidence, Bliss confessed to paying for player tuitions and turned over bank statements and other documents to the committee, Watson said.

The committee also elaborated on the improper booster payments made by Baylor regents to AAU basketball teams. According to Underwood, Turner and Bailey were asked by Baylor staff members to make a charitable donation to a central Texas basketball league. After being assured by members of Baylor's staff that the contribution was not a rules violation, the two agreed to make the contribution. However, the payment was a major infraction.

'They evaluated the request and made the contribution,' Underwood said. 'The violation occurred when a representative of Baylor makes the contribution. They were led to believe that what they were doing was permissible under NCAA rules.'

Finally, Bliss admitted to concealing infractions during interviews with committee members. Immediately after his resignation, Bliss began regular meetings with the investigative committee. According to committee members, Bliss was cooperative and helped to clarify the details of the infractions. The committee was thankful for Bliss' openness.

'At several junctures in our investigation, Bliss has provided information to us as recently as this week,' Underwood said. 'The person I met with earlier this week is someone who feels a great deal of remorse for what he's done to his family and his name. I think he wanted to make sure we knew about everything.'

In response to these infractions, Baylor has taken several self-imposed, corrective measures. Sloan extended the probationary period to Aug. 8, 2006, and reduced scholarships from 13 to nine in 2004-2005 and 13 to 12 in 2005-2006. Furthermore, expense-paid recruitment trips for players and coaches will be limited, and there will be only one exhibition game in the summer to the August sanctions. The team will be eligible for NCAA and Big 12 tournament play next season.

These new sanctions target particular areas implicated in the scandal in the hopes of preserving Baylor's integrity.

'The additional sanctions, like those imposed before, are significant,' Sloan said. 'The collective weight of these sanctions may well be unprecedented in the NCAA. But Baylor's integrity and honor must be protected.'

Several other corrective measures have been taken to stifle future scandals.

The athletic department will expand its new drug-testing protocol in order to remove all athletic personnel from the process; new employees have been added to the compliance office; new compliance education seminars will take place in Houston, Dallas and Waco and the compliance staff will file annual reports.

Also, Sloan said he was directly concerned with the breakdown in the recruitment system.

In the past 10 years, two significant scandals have rocked the athletic program. Both were related to the recruitment of players who had a questionable academic reputation - forcing coaches to take drastic, illegal measures.

Sloan is creating a task force to research recruiting in order to ensure that recruited players can compete on the field and in the classroom. Grant Teaff, former Baylor football coach and executive director of the American Football Association, will chair the task force.

'I am appointing a task force to consider standards for the recruitment of student athletes to ensure they have the academic backgrounds and personal attributes required to succeed at Baylor University,' Sloan said.

The Internal Compliance Investigative Committee was activated in July when accusations of NCAA rules violations surfaced during the investigation of the homicide of former player Patrick Dennehy.