Baylor Basketball: Year-by-Year Look at the Bears' Progress from NCAA Violations
It started in the summer of 2003.
Patrick Dennehy, a transfer from the University of New Mexico, went missing. His father had not heard from him on Father’s Day. He did not show up to a party most thought that he would attend, and his roommate returned from a trip to find that his dog had not been fed.
On June 25, Dennehy’s car was found in Virginia, which prompted a wider search for the young man.
All the while, Carlton Dotson, a teammate of Dennehy, told his cousin that he had shot and killed Dennehy after an altercation while firing guns.
The body of Patrick Dennehy was found weeks later in a pit near Waco, Texas, the home of Baylor University, and Dotson was taken into custody and charged with the murder of his teammate.
However, there was more to the story than just a murder. The Baylor Bears men’s basketball team and head coach Dave Bliss were hiding much more, all of which was revealed after an NCAA investigation.
In the end, the committee found that multiple players were found to be using marijuana and alcohol, a fact ignored by Coach Bliss. In addition, Bliss himself illegally funded Dennehy’s transfer and tuition, against NCAA rules, and, along with some assistant coaches, violated recruiting rules by attending unofficial games.
Following the revelations of these infractions and the fact that Bliss tried to cover up the murder as drug-related, Bliss resigned, and the Bears were faced with one of the biggest scandals in NCAA history.
As punishment, the school placed itself on probation, reduced basketball scholarships to only seven for two years and banned postseason play for one year. On top of that, the NCAA instituted a non-conference season ban for the 2005-06 season, increased the probationary period for the university and further restricted recruiting efforts.
Yet how has a program so decimated by the actions of two men become one of the top programs in the country?
The following is a year-by-year analysis of each season after the 2003 scandal, detailing just how current head coach Scott Drew built a program from the bottom, with the help of some very impressive recruiting classes.
Record: 8-21 (3-13 conference)
Conference Place: No. 11
Recap: After the resignation of head coach Dave Bliss, Scott Drew took the reigns in August of 2003.
When he arrived, Coach Drew found something less than a team. Most players left from the murder scandal had chosen to transfer to different programs.
All throughout the season, Coach Drew and company tried to add to a roster full of holes.
Having to deal with only seven scholarships because of self-punishment, the program had a difficult time fielding a team consistent enough to win.
At the end of the year, the Bears saw even more transfers, hurting the team even more.
Record: 9-19 (1-15 conference)
Conference Place: No. 12
Analysis: The Bears took a step back in the 2004-05 season. They won one more game overall, but finished with only one win in conference play and at the bottom of the Big 12.
At this point, Coach Drew was still attempting to stabilize a team not too far removed from the mess that Bliss left.
Record: 4-13 (4-12 conference)
Conference Place: No. 12
Recap: For the second year in a row, the Bears finished at the bottom of the Big 12. Even with three more conference wins under the belts, it was not enough to move Baylor up in the rankings.
Even so, Coach Drew managed to put together a nationally-ranked recruiting class, something that nobody thought would be possible in such a short time and on limited scholarships.
This was the first sign that Coach Drew would become one of the best recruiters in the game.
Record: 15-16 (4-12 conference)
Conference Place: No. 11
Recap: Finally, the Bears were able to play a complete season.
The 2006 season marked the return of nonconference play for the Bears, and it is obvious that this was a huge step up in terms of upping their record.
Yet in the end, the Baylor still fell to a record under .500 and only one spot behind last place in the Big 12.
Even though Coach Drew put together one of the nation’s best recruiting classes the past year, it was just not enough to get the Bears over the hump.
It would only take one more year.
Record: 21-11 (9-7 conference)
Conference Place: Tied for No. 4
Postseason Result: NCAA Tournament First Round
Recap: The turnaround was complete. The Baylor Bears finally managed to push through the muck of the NCAA violations and become an impressive squad.
Yet what is even more impressive is that the 21-11 record is the best overall record put together by Baylor in 20 years.
Coach Drew managed to grab one of the country's top players before the season in LaceDarius Dunn, who would eventually become the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer.
This season also marked a strange record for the Big 12, which involved Baylor. On January 23, Baylor traveled to College Station to face Texas A&M in a game that ended with a Baylor win and a score of 116-110. However, it took five overtimes for one of the team’s to come out on top, making it the longest game in Big 12 history.
In addition, Coach Drew’s team was selected the NCAA tournament for the first time in that 20-year span.
Record: 24-15 (5-11 conference)
Conference Place: No. 9
Postseason Results: NIT Runner-Up
Recap: It was a step back for the Bears in 2008, but before the season, Rivals.com called Coach Drew the “Big 12 Coach on the Rise” in recognition of his recruiting efforts.
After making the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years, the Bears entered the season ranked early in the season, but stumbled in conference play, only earning five wins.
Yet by the time the Big 12 tournament rolled around, Baylor caught fire and made it to the championship game before losing to Missouri.
Even so, it was not enough to earn a consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament. The Bears accepted an invitation to the NIT tournament, where they defeated Georgetown to win their first postseason game in 58 years before losing to Penn State in the championship game.
Record: 28-8 (11-5 conference)
Conference Place: Tied for No. 2
Postseason Results: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight
Analysis: The end of the 2008-09 season saw the graduation of several players that were a big part of the game for Baylor.
As such, the Bears lost their rankings and were not given very high expectations for the 2009-10 season.
However, they took the Big 12 by surprise, with the help of yet another highly-ranked recruiting class, and finished in second place.
The team was given a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, the highest in program history. Baylor made another surprising run into the Elite Eight before losing to No. 1 seeded Duke, the eventual national champions.
The Bears made program history again, finishing with a No. 10 ranking in the final ESPN/Coaches poll.
Record: 18-13 (7-9 conference)
Conference Place: Tied for No. 7
Recap: Expectations were high following Baylor’s Elite Eight run in 2009.
Coach Drew welcomed in another of the nation's top recruiting classes, a recurring theme, with highly-touted power forward Perry Jones III as the marquee signee.
Baylor was also ranked No. 14 overall by the AP preseason poll and began the season on a 7-0 run. However, after a loss to Gonzaga, the team could not remain consistent and ended the season in a less-than-stellar fashion.
When the Big 12 tournament rolled around, Baylor lost in the first round to Oklahoma after learning that Jones would be suspended five games for receiving improper benefits.
The disappointing performance by the 2010-11 Baylor team did not lend itself to any invitations from either the NCAA tournament or NIT, a step back in the eyes of the program and fans.
Record: 30-8 (12-6 conference)
Conference Place: Tied for No. 3
Analysis: Even though the Bears faltered in the previous season, they came roaring out of the gates the next year.
The team, now consisting of one of the longest front courts in the NCAA, went on a 17-0 run to start the season, the longest in program history.
The Big 12 regular season became a three-way race between Baylor, Kansas and Missouri, with the Bears eventually finishing in third. They were finally able to conquer the Jayhawks for the first time all season in the Big 12 tournament before losing, once again, to Missouri in the championship game.
The highly-ranked Bears earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and had no problem making it back to the Elite Eight. In the end, though, the eventual national champions, Kentucky, dashed Baylor’s title dreams again.
After the season, the NCAA discovered that Baylor had made a numerous amount of impermissible phone calls to recruits and sent text messages, with the majority occurring during the 2008 season. After a further investigation, the NCAA decided to accept Baylor's self-imposed probation period and suspended Coach Drew two conference games for the 2012-13 season.
Even so, Coach Drew has once again managed to build one of the nation’s top recruiting classes (No. 5 according to ESPN) for the 2012-13 season and will be one of only two schools with a top-10 signee in the last three classes.