Remember Baylor in 2003? Programs don't get much lower. Former coach Dave Bliss resigned after doing one of the more morally indefensible things any college coach has ever done: Claiming murdered player Patrick Dennehy was a drug dealer in an attempt to cover up his (Bliss') improper financial payments to players. Bliss was forced out, the school was hit with brutal sanctions (both self-imposed and from the NCAA), and the Bears were in utter programmatic shambles. Baylor basketball barely existed.
No more: After last night's 88-70 win over Texas Tech (in which star guard LaceDarius Dunn paced the Bears with 30 points), Baylor just secured its third-straight 20-win season. The past is officially past.
Baylor coach Scott Drew tweeted his thanks to the "players ... crowd ... administration, etc" last night, but obviously he deserves a lion's share of the credit. In seven years, Drew has managed to weather Baylor's sanctions period, recruit talented players like Dunn, install a system that showcases that offensive talent, and get Baylor competitive in the Big 12 and back in the NCAA tournament, and, yes, piece together these 20-win seasons -- Baylor had only three 20-win season in its history before 2003 -- all while under NCAA probation. (The Bears' probation period ends in 2010.)
Drew's decision to take over Baylor in 2003 could have been career suicide. It's been anything but.
Drew hasn't been a perfect citizen at Baylor; his dalliance with negative recruiting in 2006 was insanely reckless for a coach under probation, and it made him persona non grata among the Big 12's coaches. But that remains a relatively minor blip on what is otherwise an unqualified success. Seven years ago, it was realistic to think Baylor might never again win 20 games. Thanks to Scott Drew, for better or worse, those days are over.