Amid scandal, Baylor tries to return to normalcy

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September 6, 2003, Saturday, BC cycle

Amid scandal, Baylor tries to return to normalcy

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Domestic News; Sports News

LENGTH: 789 words

DATELINE: WACO, Texas

In its 158 years, Baylor University has weathered its share of storms, from Wild West gun battles in the late 1800s to a furor over four students posing for Playboy in 1980.

A decade ago, the world’s largest Baptist university survived a fierce struggle between conservatives and moderates at the Southern Baptist Convention. Then came the frenzy over president Robert Sloan allowing campus dancing for the first time in 1996.

But seldom has Baylor faced the kind of scrutiny thrust upon it this summer with the slaying of 21-year-old basketball player Patrick Dennehy and the ensuing disclosure of major NCAA violations in its basketball program.

“It’s sad. It’s very unfortunate,” said Debra Kromer, a 1997 Baylor graduate who lives in Austin. “For the world to look at us in an endless bad light and to kind of put in the back burner what our educational values are, that’s a shame.”

Not everyone faults Baylor, however.

“It’s just crazy people that thought winning was more important than ethics,” said 66-year-old Jack Forbess, a drug and cosmetic chemist in Plano who attended a free concert by comedian Bill Cosby at the school last week. “It’s a shame and I don’t think any less of the university.”

Dennehy was found dead July 25 with two gunshot wounds to the head. He had been missing for six weeks.

Former Baylor player Carlton Dotson has been indicted on a murder charge in Dennehy’s slaying and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted. Dotson remains jailed in his home state of Maryland, where an extradition hearing is set for Sept. 18.

Since Dennehy’s death, Baylor has been shaken by revelations of secretly paid players, failed drug tests and a tape-recorded plot by former coach Dave Bliss to cover up wrongdoing.

With the return of Baylor’s 14,000 students two weeks ago, the university has tried to regain a sense of normalcy on the tree-shaded, 722-acre campus on the banks of the Brazos River.

The first week of the fall semester brought a campus memorial service that paid tribute to Dennehy: his sense of humor, his dream of playing in the NBA, his commitment to the church.

On Thursday night, Cosby led a “Spirit Rally for the Baylor Family” that drew 20,000 people. Cosby, who offered to host the free event, billed his appearance as an effort to “build up” Baylor students hurting over recent events.

Cosby’s son, Ennis, was shot and killed in 1997 while fixing a flat tire in California.

Grant Teaff, a former Baylor football coach who is executive director of the Waco-based American Football Coaches Association, gave Cosby a T-shirt declaring “I Believe in Baylor.”

A half-hour video played on a big screen before Cosby’s arrival touted new basketball coach Scott Drew and Sloan’s 10-year plan to make Baylor a top-tier university while strengthening its Christian mission.

“It’s been an interesting summer, as you can imagine,” Teaff told The Associated Press. “The people in the community, like myself, have been stunned and shocked and madder than an old wet hen.”

But he said the return of students and the start of football season have helped spur “a whole new environment and atmosphere.”

Still, he knows the ramifications of what he called “the summer of discontent” won’t go away anytime soon, with the fight over Sloan’s future, the basketball team’s effort to rebuild and the prosecution of Dotson almost certain to keep Baylor in the headlines.

Backers of Sloan, a Baptist preacher who has headed Baylor for eight years, point to his speediness at putting the basketball program on probation and accepting the resignations of Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton.

But critics say he should be held responsible, even if he had no knowledge of wrongdoing before it occurred.

Three former chairmen of Baylor’s Board of Regents have urged the president to step down, contending he can’t unite the school.

In a letter to Sloan and Baylor regents dated Sept. 2, former chairmen Glenn Biggs, Gale Galloway and Randall Fields write they have lost confidence in Sloan’s ability to “lead, inspire and unite” amid the fallout.

The Baylor Faculty Senate is expected to consider a no-confidence motion on Sloan when it meets Tuesday. That night, Sloan supporters plan “a time of prayer for our current administration and their goals for Baylor University.”

For many students, all the attention the events have drawn to the school is anything but welcome.

“It’s like you finally get in the spirit and say ‘OK, Baylor!”‘ said Monica Herring, an 18-year-old freshman from College Station. “And then the media comes around … reminding us of everything that happened.”

On the Net:

Baylor University: http://www.baylor.edu

August 29, 2003, Friday, BC cycle

Baylor pays tribute to slain basketball player

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR. and ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press Writers

SECTION: State and Regional; Sports News

LENGTH: 836 words

DATELINE: WACO, Texas

For one night, Baylor University’s beleaguered basketball team didn’t worry about its uncertain future – and friends and relatives of slain 6-foot-10 forward Patrick Dennehy didn’t dwell on the questions surrounding his death.

As a crowd of 300 gathered in Baylor’s Powell Chapel on Thursday night, the focus wasn’t on NCAA rules violations or the murder charge against Dennehy’s former teammate Carlton Dotson.

The attention on this night belonged to Dennehy: his sense of humor, his dream of playing in the NBA, his commitment to Jesus Christ.

“I’m not exactly sure what God’s plan was on this one, why Patrick had to leave us so young,” said John Cunningham, a communications professor who was close to Dennehy. “My only guess is that they needed a power forward on the starting basketball team up there.”

Jessica De La Rosa, Dennehy’s girlfriend of two years, recalled that he had “this little boy inside of him” who thought it more important to buy Fruity Pebbles than meat at the grocery store – and always smelled every bar of soap before buying one.

But he had a serious side, too, she said: He believed where a person started was less important than where they finished.

“Even though Patrick’s body perished, his soul is alive,” De La Rosa said. “His soul is up in heaven … so God’s got him and Patrick finished as strongly as anybody ever could.”

Thursday’s memorial service marked Baylor’s first public event to honor Dennehy since the 21-year-old’s body – with two bullet holes in the head – was found July 25 in a field near a rock quarry southeast of town. He had been missing for six weeks.

Dennehy never got to play in Baylor’s gold-domed arena.

After transferring to Baylor last summer from New Mexico, Dennehy couldn’t play for a year because of NCAA rules. He wasn’t as well-known as other team members among the 14,000 students but had several close friends.

Dotson, who played basketball at Baylor last season and lived with Dennehy a few months, was arrested July 21 in his home state of Maryland. He was indicted for murder Wednesday and could be extradited to Texas in the next 60 days.

In the wake of Dennehy’s death, revelations of secretly paid players, doctored drug tests and a tape-recorded plot by former coach Dave Bliss to cover up wrongdoing have shaken this university town between Austin and Dallas.

“Our students were gone when these tragic events unfolded this summer,” campus minister Todd Lake said. “They just arrived back on Monday, and this is a chance to gather in the first few days to have a service of worship and comfort those who are sad.”

Scott Drew, hired to replace former coach Dave Bliss, and Dennehy’s remaining teammates all attended the service. Senior captain Matt Sayman said the players would take the night off from thinking or talking about basketball and dedicate it to remembering Dennehy.

“I think it’s a real important night for us because we’ve kind of been holding on to this for a while now,” Sayman said. “It’s a chance to let go and grieve together.”

A piano and an organ played the comforting strands of “It is Well With My Soul” as the service opened. Baylor President Robert Sloan led a prayer asking for God’s comfort and grace. Later, mourners stood and sang “Amazing Grace.”

Katie New, a 19-year-old sophomore from Liberty, Mo., didn’t know Dennehy, but she attended the service anyway.

“Even though there are 14,000 students at Baylor, it’s still a family … and we have to come out and support each other,” New said of the world’s largest Baptist university.

Dennehy’s mother, Valorie Brabazon, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as Dick Bernal, pastor of Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, Calif., suggested her son entered “the hall of fame of faith.”

Brabazon, wearing a picture of her son pinned to a blue ribbon attached to her dress, said after the service that she felt comforted by talking to her son’s friends and professors.

“Actually it was very hard for me to go to a second memorial,” said Brabazon, who attended a service for her son in California earlier this month. “When it’s your son, the hurt is still there. It hurts all over again.”

Former athletic director Tom Stanton, who resigned along with Bliss on Aug. 8 after major violations in the basketball program were announced, hugged the players before they walked into the chapel. Bliss did not attend the service.

Dotson’s estranged wife, Melissa Kethley, attended the service and hugged the players, Dennehy’s mother and girlfriend afterward.

Dennehy’s stepfather, Brian Brabazon, and the player’s teenage sister – who live in Carson City, Nev. – could not attend the service because of work and school conflicts, Lake said.

But Lake told the crowd that Brian Brabazon wanted them to know that Jesus Christ never left Dennehy’s side.

“Though he died in a rural field … Patrick did not die alone,” Lake said. “His mother and father’s love, the love of friends, the love of Christ was there with him.”

—–

Baylor pays tribute to slain basketball player

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR. and ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press Writers

SECTION: State and Regional; Sports News

LENGTH: 780 words

DATELINE: WACO, Texas

A piano and an organ played the comforting strands of “It is Well With My Soul” as somber students and faculty members gathered Thursday night to remember a slain Baylor University basketball player.

A simple arrangement of flowers sat beneath a tall stained glass window depicting Christ at the front of Powell Chapel, as grieving friends and family joined those who never knew Patrick Dennehy in paying tribute to the handsome, 6-foot-10 forward whose body was found last month.

“We mourn the death, but even more we celebrate the life of Patrick Dennehy,” Todd Lake, Baylor’s dean of university ministries, told the crowd of 300 before Baylor President Robert Sloan led a prayer asking for God’s comfort and grace.

“Oh Lord, we do not grieve as those who have no hope, but we do grieve,” he said.

“Patrick had such big aspirations in life. His dream was to play in the NBA and then to work in the front office in public relations,” said John Cunningham, a Baylor communications professor who was close to Dennehy. Cunningham described him as one of the finest students he had ever taught.

Jessica De La Rosa, Dennehy’s girlfriend of two years, said he believed where a person started wasn’t as important as where they finished.

“Even though Patrick’s body perished, his soul is alive,” she said. “His soul is up in heaven … so God’s got him and Patrick finished as strongly as anybody ever could.”

Dennehy’s mother, Valorie Brabazon, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as Dick Bernal, pastor of Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, Calif., recalled her son’s life and commitment to Christianity.

“Patrick has not left us, he’s just gone ahead of us,” Lake said before mourners stood and sang “Amazing Grace.”

Brabazon, wearing a picture of her son pinned to a blue ribbon attached to her dress, said after the service that she felt comforted by talking to her son’s friends and professors.

“Actually it was very hard for me to go to a second memorial,” said Brabazon. She had attended a service for her son in California earlier this month. “When it’s your son, the hurt is still there. It hurts all over again.”

Thursday’s memorial service marked the first event honoring Dennehy, 21, on the 722-acre campus on the banks of the Brazos River, where massive, spire-topped brick buildings tower above trees.

Scott Drew, hired to replace former coach Dave Bliss, and Dennehy’s remaining teammates all attended the service. Speaking on behalf of the team before the memorial began, senior captain Matt Sayman said the players would take the night off from thinking or talking about basketball and dedicate it to remembering Dennehy.

“It’s a real important night because we’ve kind of been holding on to this for awhile now,” Sayman said. “It’s kind of a chance to let go and grieve together.”

He said Dennehy’s death helps put life in perspective: “How short this life is and how quick it can go.”

He remembered Dennehy as a good friend and teammate.

Former athletic director Tom Stanton, who resigned along with Bliss on Aug. 8 after major violations in the basketball program were announced, hugged the players before they walked into the chapel. Bliss did not attend the service.

With most students away on summer vacation as details of Dennehy’s slaying rocked the Central Texas university, Baylor lacked typical symbols of grief such as ribbons, flower bouquets and candlelight vigils.

“Our students were gone when these tragic events unfolded this summer,” Lake said earlier. “They just arrived back on Monday, and this is a chance to gather in the first few days to have a service of worship and comfort those who are sad.”

Dennehy, 21, never got to play in Baylor’s gold-domed arena.

After transferring to Baylor last summer from New Mexico, Dennehy couldn’t play for a year because of NCAA rules. He wasn’t as well-known as other team members among the 14,000 students but had several close friends.

Carlton Dotson, who played basketball at Baylor last season and lived with Dennehy a few months, was arrested July 21 in his home state of Maryland. He was indicted for murder Wednesday and could be extradited to Texas in the next 60 days.

Dennehy had been missing about six weeks when his body was found July 25 in a field near a rock quarry southeast of town. He had been shot twice in the head.

Dotson’s estranged wife, Melissa Kethley, attended the service and hugged the players, Dennehy’s mother and girlfriend afterward.

Dennehy’s stepfather, Brian Brabazon, and the player’s teenage sister – who live in Carson City, Nev. – could not attend the Baylor service because of work and school conflicts, Lake said.

—–

August 25, 2003, Monday, BC cycle

Baylor University president’s future debated amid basketball scandal

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 585 words

DATELINE: WACO, Texas

To some, Baylor University President Robert Sloan is exactly the right person to lead the world’s largest Baptist university through its recent crisis: the slaying of a basketball player, revelations of NCAA violations, a tape-recorded cover-up plot by a former coach.

He is, they say, a rock of faith and integrity.

But others say Sloan must be held responsible for the image-tarnishing events – even if he had no knowledge of wrongdoing before it occurred – and needs to go.

For his part, Sloan said he relies on prayer, family and friends to cope.

“What I have found is that God’s grace really is deeper than the deepest trouble you go through,” the 54-year-old Baptist preacher said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Baylor opens its fall semester Monday still reeling from the June slaying of basketball player Patrick Dennehy and the ensuing disclosure of secretly paid players, doctored drug tests and the alleged plot by ex-coach Dave Bliss.

Sloan supporters make their case by pointing to his speediness at putting the basketball program on probation and accepting the resignations of Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton.

“Although some people may be against him, he knows that the Lord is watching over what he’s doing and that he’s guided – it’s not like he’s making a lot of these decisions on his own,” said student body President Jeff Leach, 21, from Plano. “He’s praying about them and he’s trying to do the right thing.”

Computer science professor Henry Walbesser, however, contends that Sloan’s faith is mockery.

“He makes himself out to be a pious person with Christian values, but he doesn’t practice it,” Walbesser said. “He has done so much damage to this institution in the name of Christian faith.”

The faculty senate may take up a no-confidence vote on Sloan when it meets Sept. 9, and at least one major newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, has called for his resignation, saying he “failed dramatically” in his duty to ensure that Baylor ran an upright program.

Sloan, who has headed 14,000-student Baylor for eight years, said he doesn’t let such talk distract him.

“I honestly do not worry about those kinds of things because what I believe is this: You don’t solve any problem by running away from it. I’m committed to Baylor University. It’s what I’m doing as a calling,” he said.

Even before the recent turmoil, Sloan faced harsh criticism from some faculty leaders over his 10-year reform plan that calls for moving Baylor into the top tier of American universities while strengthening its Christian mission.

Chuck Weaver, the faculty senate’s immediate past chairman, said Sloan has threatened Baylor’s academic reputation by stressing religious beliefs over qualifications when hiring new faculty members. The neuroscience professor refers to the process as a “religious litmus test.”

Sloan said he seeks professors who will not only tolerate but actively support Baylor’s religious mission. At the same time, he denied imposing any creeds or religious oaths on those hired. Less than half of Baylor’s nearly 800 faculty members are Baptists.

Most importantly, he said, Baylor must strive to hire people of character and faithfulness and hold them accountable.

“It’s important for people to have accountability groups and to meet with friends and others,” Sloan said. “Because as individuals, if we get isolated, it’s possible for any of us to make serious moral errors and mistakes.”

On the Net: http://www.baylor.edu

July 27, 2003, Sunday, BC cycle

Dennehy case reopens wounds for Baylor basketball program

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional; Sports News

LENGTH: 972 words

DATELINE: WACO, Texas

At first blush, the world’s largest Baptist university would seem an unlikely arena for a sordid saga involving allegations of gun-toting basketball players, improper payments by coaches and doctored drug tests.

A Big 12 Conference school, Baylor University isn’t known as an athletic powerhouse, but it touts its Christian heritage.

Yet the accusations made in the wake of 6-foot-10, 230-pound center Patrick Dennehy’s disappearance have reopened wounds for a basketball program twice placed on NCAA probation since the mid-1980s.

Prompted by claims made by friends and relatives of Dennehy, Baylor opened a new inquiry last week into possible NCAA violations.

Coach Dave Bliss and his staff have declined to comment but deny wrongdoing.

“This whole thing just breaks my heart,” said Pat Nunley, the team’s longtime radio analyst.

It’s not the first time Baylor’s program has come under scrutiny.

The program was put on five-year probation in 1994 after an investigation found that coaches were illegally doing correspondence work for players. An FBI inquiry resulted in mail and wire fraud convictions against three assistant coaches. Former head coach Darrel Johnson was fired.

In 1986, the Baylor basketball team was slapped with a two-year probation after the NCAA said it provided cash, transportation and other illegal benefits to players. A player secretly recorded a conversation in which former head coach Jim Haller agreed to give him $172 for a car payment.

“One would hope that a university with a religious heritage would not have these ethical problems,” said Chuck Weaver, president of Baylor’s Faculty Senate. “That’s not always the case. Coaches at Baylor face the same kinds of pressures to win as coaches at any other university.”

Weaver added: “In general, Bliss has been one of the most respected basketball coaches Baylor has ever had. His hiring was considered to be a response to previous difficulties.”

Baylor finished last season 14-14 but won only five of 16 conference games. But the disappointment on the court was nothing compared to the sorrow that has engulfed the campus since mid-June.

Dennehy’s family reported him missing June 19, a week after he was last seen in Waco, about 100 miles south of Fort Worth. His Chevy Tahoe, stripped of its license plates, was found June 25 in a Virginia parking lot.

Authorities found a badly decomposed body Friday night about five miles southeast of Waco, but officials said it may take days to identify the remains.

Carlton Dotson, a former teammate who lived with Dennehy, was charged with Dennehy’s murder last week and remains jailed without bond. Waco police said Dotson told FBI agents in his home state of Maryland that he shot Dennehy after the player tried to shoot him. But he said he “didn’t confess to anything.”

Three Baylor Law School professors will investigate allegations that a coach told Dennehy his education and living expenses would be paid if he gave up his scholarship for a year. The committee also will examine whether Dennehy received $1,200 to $1,800 from an assistant coach toward a car loan for his sport-utility vehicle, and if players passed urine tests despite smoking marijuana.

“We’re going to be looking into every allegation that has been reported … and other issues that we may encounter on our own,” committee member Bill Underwood said.

Adriana Gallegos, a former girlfriend of Dennehy’s, told The Associated Press that Dennehy was excited when he returned to New Mexico last spring from a recruiting trip to Baylor.

“He was just like, ‘They’re going to hook me up and they’re probably going to get me a nice SUV,”‘ said Gallegos, 22, who now lives in Midland.

“I didn’t really think much of it because I’ve heard so many stories of really good athletes getting so many benefits from their coaches. … I thought they were just bribing him to come out to Baylor.”

Gallegos said Dennehy occasionally smoked marijuana, but “it wasn’t an everyday thing.”

Dotson’s estranged wife, Melissa Kethley, said Dotson and Dennehy were among three players she drove to get tested at a Waco clinic after a team-ordered urine test came back positive for illicit drug use. Kethley told The Dallas Morning News that Dotson passed a test at a time she knew he and five or six teammates were smoking marijuana.

“Half of them used to go to practice high,” she said.

Jerrel Bolton, a Chevrolet dealer in West, north of Waco, said Bliss called him last fall and told him Dennehy was looking for an SUV. NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes said she couldn’t say whether such a call would be a rules violation because “it would depend on too many specific factors.”

Bolton said Dennehy told him the down payment for the Tahoe he bought came from “one of his girlfriends.”

“I find it very difficult to believe that anybody, in a time like this, would be wanting to hold Baylor and the Baylor coaching staff on trial,” Bolton said. “I would think you would want to be more worried about your loved one.”

But in a high-profile case, it’s not surprising that such allegations have surfaced, said Peter Roby, director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

Given the level of media interest, “there’s going to be someone looking for the other big story because they can’t keep regurgitating the same story,” Roby said.

“I would hope the public-at-large is going to want to wait and be fair and see what happens,” he said. “If there are any violations involved, those will come out in due time.”

But for now, the focus should remain on the murder case, he said.

“It’s life-or-death versus allegations of wrongdoing with recruiting,” Roby said. “As much as sports is important to our society, it needs to be kept in its proper perspective.”

July 24, 2003, Thursday, BC cycle

Dealer: Baylor coach helped missing player find SUV

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 794 words

DATELINE: WEST, Texas

Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss called a Chevrolet dealer in this small town last fall and told him he had a new player who was looking for a sport-utility vehicle, the dealer said Thursday.

The player was Patrick Dennehy – the missing 6-10 center – who had recently transferred from the University of New Mexico to Baylor, about 15 miles south of West.

However, dealer Jerrel Bolton told The Associated Press that Dennehy told him he got the $2,000 down payment for the black 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe he bought from “one of his girlfriends” – not from the Baylor coaching staff.

Dennehy, 21, has been missing since mid-June. Former teammate Carlton Dotson has been charged with murder, accused of shooting him in the head. Police haven’t found Dennehy’s body. The Tahoe, stripped of its license plates, was found abandoned last month in Virginia.

Already reeling from Dennehy’s disappearance, Baylor’s beleaguered athletic department opened an internal inquiry this week into whether coaches made improper payments to Dennehy – a claim denied by Bliss and his staff.

Among the allegations against Baylor is that Dennehy emerged from basketball offices last fall with between $1,200 and $1,800 that he told his girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa, came from a coach and was to go toward the purchase of a car.

Bolton, a former Texas Longhorn football player who furnishes a car for a Baylor women’s assistant basketball coach, said Dennehy probably did tell De La Rosa that.

“In my estimation, from what I’m reading between the lines, he had to make up the coach deal and tell the De La Rosa girl,” said Bolton, whose office is filled with sports memorabilia, ranging from autographed basketballs to Baylor and Texas football helmets.

“I mean, do you think, if he’s dating De La Rosa and two or three other ones, he’s going to tell the De La Rosa girl, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get my money from a different girlfriend?”‘

De La Rosa declined to comment on the matter Thursday.

“It’s just a side tangent,” she told a throng of reporters outside Waco City Hall. “It’s not going to help us find Patrick.”

Meanwhile, a close friend reportedly says the player told her that the school might buy an SUV for him if he agreed to transfer to Waco and give up his scholarship last season.

Adriana Gallegos, who dated Dennehy after they met nearly three years ago at the University of New Mexico and has remained good friends with him, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Thursday’s editions that Dennehy returned to Albuquerque, N.M., happy and boasting that Baylor was “going to hook me up better than UNM,” after a spring 2002 recruiting visit to Waco.

“I’m going to get probably like a nice SUV,” Gallegos, 22, said Dennehy told her.

“I didn’t think much of it because I’ve heard so many stories of good athletes getting hooked up,” she said. “I just assumed he was going to be pretty well taken care of.”

Bolton said he saw nothing unusual about Bliss calling him on Dennehy’s behalf. He said he has a good relationship with Baylor and they know he will treat the players fairly.

At first, Bolton thought Bliss meant Dennehy needed a new SUV, not a used one.

“I said, ‘I’ve got whatever you want,”‘ Bolton recalled. “And he said, ‘Nah, he needs something cheap.’ And I said, ‘Well, you can’t buy much vehicle cheap on a sport utility.’

“It just so happened that we had traded for this black Tahoe and I said, ‘Well, let me check and see.’ It was in our detail shop.”

Bliss was unavailable for comment Thursday, athletic department spokesman Scott Stricklin said. Stricklin said Baylor would not respond to individual allegations but will conduct a thorough investigation.

Not long after the conversation with Bliss, Dennehy came in to the dealership, drove the black 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe and decided to buy it. The price was $10,000, including a $2,000 down payment, Bolton said.

Bolton said Dennehy didn’t qualify for credit because he didn’t have a job, so his father, Patrick Dennehy Sr., of Tacoma, Wash., co-signed for the loan. The dealer said it’s his understanding that Dennehy Sr. has made the payments.

Dennehy Sr. did not immediately return telephone calls from The Associated Press.

Dennehy couldn’t take possession of the car until a week after the paperwork was signed because he didn’t have the required $2,000 down payment, Bolton said.

The player told Bolton that he was waiting to get the money from one of his girlfriends. He returned the next week with a wad of cash.

Bolton said he won’t forget Dennehy.

“Patrick was a big, strapping, good-looking kid, and very nice – always ‘Yes, Sir’ and ‘No, Sir’ and just as nice a kid as you would ever want to deal with,” he said.

July 23, 2003, Wednesday, BC cycle

Baylor launches inquiry into claim that coach helped arrange to pay for Dennehy’s education

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional; Sports News

LENGTH: 972 words

DATELINE: WACO, Texas

A player missing and presumed dead. A former teammate jailed on murder charges. And now this.

Already reeling from the saga surrounding basketball player Patrick Dennehy’s disappearance, Baylor University’s beleaguered athletic department faced questions Wednesday about whether coaches made improper payments to Dennehy.

While lamenting the timing of the allegations, Baylor athletic director Tom Stanton said the university “has begun a vigorous internal inquiry independent of the athletic department to determine the facts in this situation.”

“The investigation will be thorough,” Stanton said. “We take these issues very seriously. We are hopeful questions about Patrick’s first year at Baylor can be resolved quickly.”

Dennehy, 21, has been missing since mid-June. Former teammate Carlton Dotson has been charged with murder, accused of shooting him in the head. Police haven’t found Dennehy’s body.

Among the allegations against Baylor is that Dennehy emerged from basketball offices last November with between $1,200 and $1,800 that he told his girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa, came from a coach and was to go toward the purchase of a car.

The 6-foot-10 center’s father, Patrick Dennehy Sr., said in published reports that De La Rosa, a University of New Mexico track athlete, reported what she saw to officials at New Mexico and they reported it to the NCAA.

The NCAA, a governing body for college sports, prohibits extra benefits to athletes. It’s the organization’s policy not to confirm or deny whether a school is under investigation.

De La Rosa, who was in Waco on Wednesday with Dennehy’s mother and stepfather, confirmed she spoke to New Mexico officials, but declined to comment on what she said.

Dennehy Sr. also said a member of Baylor’s basketball staff paid a car service to drive De La Rosa from Waco to a Dallas airport last fall. That allegation was investigated by New Mexico and the NCAA, and De La Rosa was declared ineligible to run track next season. She will likely be reinstated if she repays the cost of the trip, said Janice Ruggiero, a New Mexico athletics official.

Dennehy’s father, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., had been estranged from his son until the last few years. He said he was just now speaking up about the alleged financial favors because he was frustrated with Baylor for not keeping him informed about the investigation into his son’s disappearance.

He said a Baylor coach helped arrange to pay for his son’s education and living expenses when the player agreed to give up his scholarship to another player last year. After transferring to Baylor from New Mexico, Dennehy had to sit out last season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Dennehy Sr. said the coach promised to “take care of” his son. If the young Dennehy wasn’t on scholarship, he would have been responsible for tuition and other expenses.

The player’s mother, Valorie Brabazon, identified the coach as assistant coach Rodney Belcher. Brabazon told The Dallas Morning News for a story in Thursday’s editions that Belcher also drove her son from Albuquerque to Waco last year when he transferred – which would be a violation of NCAA rules.

Dennehy’s stepfather, Brian Brabazon, said his wife was unavailable for comment Wednesday night. He declined to comment.

“This isn’t going to help us find Patrick,” he told The Associated Press. “We have more questions than we have answers. I don’t want to be talking about that.”

Valorie Brabazon also told the Morning News that, after her son disappeared, De La Rosa told her that Belcher was one of at least two Baylor coaches whom Dennehy went to this spring to say he was being threatened.

“I talked to Coach Rodney,” the mother said. “He said Patrick had come to him and said that someone was stalking him. … But the coach said my son never gave him a name.

“The coach said Patrick didn’t ask him for help. But I said, ‘That’s a help-me call.’ You shouldn’t have to say, ‘Could you please call the police?’.”

Belcher, who coached at New Mexico during Dennehy’s time there, could not be reached for comment.

Baylor coach Dave Bliss has said no one on his staff was informed of threats against Dennehy.

Through an athletic department spokesman, Bliss and his staff denied the allegations of possible NCAA rules violations.

“It is unsettling to learn about these assertions and rumors against Patrick and the university at this particular moment when Patrick is not here to give his side of the story,” Stanton said in a written statement. “Patrick’s reputation is important to us, and the reputation of our athletic department and its coaches is important to us.”

Dennehy’s mother and stepfather have said that they couldn’t pay his tuition, living expenses and car payments.

Valorie Brabazon said her son, soon after arriving in Waco last year, asked her to fill out forms to help him apply for financial aid. She said the family learned later that the application was rejected because their income was too high.

She said that her son ultimately told her that the school had helped him arrange to get tuition money, and that she assumed it came from grants and loans.

Grant Teaff, executive director of the Waco-based American Football Coaches Association and a former Baylor football coach, cautioned against a rush to judgment about Dennehy receiving money from a coach.

“I would be not only surprised, I’d be quite shocked,” said Teaff, who coached 21 years at Baylor and served 12 years as chairman of the football coaches association’s ethics committee.

“I knew Dave Bliss when he was at SMU through our coaching contacts and with him now living here in town, and I’ve never heard any indication of anybody doing anything out of line,” Teaff said. “Of course, I’m not in a position to hear everything.”

July 5, 2003, Saturday, BC cycle

Player’s disappearance another blow for nation’s largest Baptist university

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 744 words

DATELINE: WACO, Texas

The disappearance of Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy comes at a time when the nation’s largest Baptist university was already embroiled in controversy or intrigue.

The school’s president has embarked on a reform plan that the alumni magazine characterizes as a “struggle for the heart and soul of Baylor.”

In addition, the school has been embroiled in a furor over accusations that a regent tipped off students about an undercover drug investigation by Baylor’s police department.

Just last week, university President Robert Sloan felt compelled to send a letter defending his actions to “all alumni and other friends of Baylor University” – a first for his eight-year administration.

“The timing is amazing,” said Louis Moore, a 1968 graduate and owner of an evangelical Christian publishing company in Garland, a Dallas suburb.

Alumni received the letter just as Dennehy’s disappearance was making national headlines, striking another blow to Baylor.

There’s been no sign of the 6-foot-10 junior since he was reported missing two weeks ago and his sport utility vehicle was found abandoned without its license plates in Virginia.

Police have called Dennehy’s roommate Carlton Dotson, a former Baylor basketball player, a “person of interest” in the case. A search warrant affidavit says an unidentified informant in Delaware alleged Dotson shot Dennehy in the head after the two argued while shooting guns on property outside Waco. Dotson’s attorney says it’s all speculation, and friends of both young men say the two bought guns because they feared their lives were in danger.

“It’s been tough to watch the news and see your university in this kind of spotlight,” said Jeff Leach, Baylor’s student body president.

Until the Dennehy case, the spotlight at the 14,000-student university focused on “Baylor 2012,” Sloan’s 10-year plan to move Baylor into the top tier of American universities while strengthening its Christian mission.

Bulldozers and mounds of dirt on the campus between Dallas and Austin testify to Sloan’s effort to remake Baylor physically.

But the $200 million price tag on the renovations and Sloan’s other plans for Baylor have fueled criticism.

Some Baylor supporters worry about saddling the university with so much debt during an economic downturn. Others complain about a decision to raise tuition last year by more than a third, to $17,200 annually.

Still others suggest that Sloan’s emphasis on strong faith and on faculty research as a condition of tenure will hurt Baylor’s hiring and traditional focus on undergraduate teaching.

“Changes of the order and magnitude called for by the vision do not come without challenges, and we have undoubtedly made some missteps along the way,” Sloan told alumni in his recent letter. “That is to be expected: the road we are traveling has no scouts.”

His letter didn’t address the internal investigation launched in May into accusations that regent Jaclanel McFarland, a Houston attorney, alerted students to a campus drug sting.

McFarland, who vehemently denies the allegations, says Sloan has vendetta against her because she’s been critical of his proposed changes.

University officials refused to comment, saying the investigation is ongoing.

In discussing Baylor’s problems, McFarland took a jab at Sloan’s plans for Baylor, saying the university has historically valued strong teaching and in such an environment, “the teachers know the students by name and, hopefully, if they are missing for two weeks, someone will notice.”

The claims against McFarland have galvanized disgruntled alumni who “think there’s no way she could be guilty of that,” said Todd Copeland, director of operations for the independent Baylor Alumni Association.

“It’s strange because there are all these things churning around and making people concerned and angry,” said Copeland, a 1990 graduate. “But at the same time, so much of what’s happening at Baylor is really good.”

As Baylor deals with Dennehy’s disappearance, students and administrators pray that he will still be found alive.

“This is a personal crisis for this family and for Patrick Dennehy,” Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said. “Really, when you consider that there’s a young man missing and there’s fear of foul play, that helps put all this other stuff into perspective.”

On the Net:

Baylor University: http://www.baylor.edu

Baylor Alumni Association: http://www.bayloralumni.com

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