|Saturday, August 2
Updated: August 6, 3:17 AM ET
Coaches may have watched pickup game illegally
DALLAS -- Two members of last season's Baylor basketball team said Tuesday that members of the team's coaching staff were present when Harvey Thomas played in a pickup game last spring during his official visit before signing with the Bears, the Dallas Morning News is reporting in Wednesday's edition.
One of the two players said head coach Dave Bliss and assistant coach Rodney Belcher watched the game. Such direct observation by the staff during the recruit's visit, or having players report back to the staff about the recruit, would violate NCAA rules.
The Morning News report alleges the latest in a rapidly growing list of potential violations in the Baylor program.
On Friday, a spokesman for Baylor declined comment on reports by Carlton Dotson's estranged wife and by the mother of another athlete that drug and alcohol use among Baylor basketball players was rampant last season.
Baylor sports information director Scott Stricklin said that because of student privacy laws he couldn't even confirm whether Baylor officials had spoken to Sonya Hart, mother of Robert Hart, who left the Baylor basketball team in February, complaining of a lack of playing time.
Dotson was arrested July 21 and charged with murder in the death of former Baylor teammate and roommate Patrick Dennehy, who had been missing about six weeks when his body was found in a field near the Baylor campus, shot in the head. Dotson has disputed police assertions that he admitted to the shooting in a statement to the FBI.
The Dallas Morning News reported in its Saturday editions that Sonya Hart of Garland, Texas, in taped interviews with the newspaper in the past week, made a series of allegations about drug use related to her by her 21-year-old son.
She said her son gave her the names of five players who were using marijuana and drinking alcohol. She said she shared the information with associate athletic director Paul Bradshaw when athletic director Tom Stanton was unavailable. She never saw players smoking marijuana during her visits to the apartment her son shared with Dotson and his wife, but the odor of the drug was strong in the apartment, she said.
No one from Baylor ever got back in contact with her, she said.
Her comments came after Baylor head coach Dave Bliss said Monday that, as far as he knew, his players had no more to do with drugs "than the man in the moon."
The Morning News said Paul Hart, who played high school basketball at Dallas Madison High School, declined to provide the newspaper with names of teammates who used drugs, saying he didn't want to hurt his friendships with those still at Baylor.
But, he said: "Our house was the party house. It was one big party. There was always drinking and smoking."
Hart, who was Dotson's teammate at Paris Junior College before both went to Baylor, left the Bears after playing only two minutes in the first two games of the season.
"It wasn't a good situation for me. I wasn't playing and I had problems with my roommate (Dotson). Plus I was near graduation, so it was time for me to go," he said.
Dotson's estranged wife, Melissa Kethley, who left him in April after what she called his increasingly erratic behavior, was the first to raise allegations that players routinely used drugs last season.
Kethley, who married Dotson last August, said five or six basketball players would gather at their apartment and smoke marijuana, sometimes before practice. She also said she witnessed Dotson fake a drug screening test by using urine provided by a fellow player who was drug free.
Bliss has said that his team had study sessions before practice and that he did not believe they arrived for workouts under the influence of drugs. He said drug tests are given regularly.
"If I went one by one through our team, these people do not do drugs. Now, if we have an isolated incident that may be mentioned, I don't know. But I certainly don't feel that our program is out of control," he said Monday. "I never, and I've done this for 30 years, I never once suspected that we had any problems with this area."
Baylor has appointed a panel to examine potential NCAA violations in its basketball program, including the possibility that improper financial assistance allowed Dennehy to attend the university during the 2002-03 academic year without an athletic scholarship.
Meanwhile, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in a copyright story Saturday that Bliss left Southern Methodist University in 1988 months after an NCAA investigation uncovered evidence of what typically would be considered major rules violations, including booster payments to a player.
Neither Bliss nor SMU received NCAA penalties stemming from the allegations contained in an NCAA memo obtained by the paper.
Robert L. Stroup III, a former NCAA enforcement representative who wrote the memo, told the Star-Telegram he stopped investigating the program at the direction of his supervisor, who said the university had paid a heavy price already by receiving the "death penalty" for violations in its football program.
"It was just kind of decided, 'We gave them the worst (penalty). What more can we do?'" Stroup said.
Bliss declined to be interviewed for the report but has said he has always complied with NCAA rules.
NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard declined to comment specifically about the report, but he said that under the organization's policies, it makes public only major infractions by college athletic programs.