NCAA strikes hard on ex-coaches, Baylor program

Dave Bliss is done coaching.

So, too, is his former assistant, Doug Ash.

Neither is likely going to get another job after a 10- and five-year show-cause penalty, respectively. Both must face the NCAA and explain themselves if a university chooses to hire them.

Calls to Bliss weren't returned.

The men's basketball team at Baylor, led now by Scott Drew, will only play 16 regular-season games, all in the Big 12, in 2005-06. The Bears are eligible for the conference tournament and postseason but probably can only earn an NCAA berth by winning the tournament, since an at-large berth would be highly unlikely.

The three harshest penalties above, released Thursday, proved the NCAA Infractions Committee will take into consideration proactive measures (firings, postseason bans and scholarship reductions) by the university, but self-imposed sanctions are rarely enough.

The committee, made up of university personnel from law professors to athletic directors, still can put teeth in a penalty. And the messages sent Thursday should ring loud and clear to coaches, administrators and players across the country.

The Baylor case is one of the most extreme since, perhaps, the last death penalty case at SMU in the 1980s. Baylor was close to being shut down for 2005-06 since the committee used that same provision to get rid of non-conference games for the first time ever, according to the committee's chair, Alabama law professor Gene Marsh.

First of all, the assistant coaches were hit hard even though they tried to hide behind loyalty to the head coach. The infractions committee made it clear that loyalty isn't an excuse. The blatant disregard for the rules -- like funneling money to AAU programs, paying tuition, falsifying meal receipts, failing to follow drug-testing procedures and the overall coverup of the actions through lies -- made this case major on all fronts. The tragic shooting death of Patrick Dennehy, now admitted at the hands of former teammate Carlton Dotson, made the case a national story. It certainly had influence in rendering the decision.

But the violations occurred before Dennehy's death. The blind loyalty by assistants should be a wakeup call. But there are so many others who should be held accountable and that would be why the entire athletic department was cited for a lack of institutional control.

We have said it before but it bears repeating that someone should have checked how tuition was being paid. The players also share the responsibility in that they should have investigated how their tuition was being paid, as well. There should be accountability throughout the university.

Drew now enters the final chapter of the penalty phase. He has handled the self-imposed penalties well and once again is taking the high road in dealing with this latest blow. But he knew what he signed up for when he left a rather comfortable job at Valparaiso for Baylor.

Baylor has one of the top rising sophomores in the country in Aaron Bruce (18.2 ppg). Baylor did lose 14 straight to end the season 9-19, 1-15 in the league. But Drew signed six stellar recruits, from three to four stars according to scout.com, led by Dayton High (Texas) point Henry Dugat, College of Southern Idaho center Mohamed Kone and South Oak Cliff High (Dallas) power forward Kevin Rogers. Drew already has commitments from two four-star (scout.com) players in the class of 2006 in center Josh Lomers (Boerne, Texas) and point guard DeMond Carter (Reserve Christian School, La.).

So, obviously, recruiting hasn't been an issue. And, apparently, the present players on the team, like Bruce, can't transfer without having to sit even if they were interested in doing so. Baylor issued a statement late Thursday saying that players can only leave without a year in residence if the school has a postseason ban for the remaining seasons of that player's career. The NCAA didn't issue a postseason ban.

So, the Bears just have to live with their latest sanctions. And they will. Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw issued a statement saying he's working on finding new games for the six contracted non-conference opponents for the 2005-06 season.

Marsh said the Bears could practice during the non-conference portion of their schedule. They will probably be tired of going against each other in advance of the Big 12 season. But that's the least of their problems. At least they have a season. They easily could have been gone for all of 2005-06.

The infractions committee sent a serious message with this case, one that should be heeded by all institutions, coaches and players in Division I.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.