Probation timing may be trouble for Baylor

If you're Baylor coach Scott Drew, you might be feeling a little like a first-term president.

Just a few months ago, Drew was riding high. His seven-year rebuilding project at Baylor -- a program he inherited after one of the worst scandals in college basketball history; more on that below -- had finally borne its first truly significant fruit. The Bears were an Elite Eight team, they had returning star LaceDarius Dunn, they were adding one of the most promising recruits in the country, and they weren't just a happy hope to win the Big 12 title and get to the Final Four. They were a bona fide contender. Everything was coming up Scott.

No more. Dunn's arrest and suspension from classes for an alleged incident of domestic abuse has thrown the star guard's season into question. That's bad enough, but it gets worse: According to FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman, the NCAA has begun an investigation of Baylor for its recruitment of 2012 recruit Hanner Perea. Multiple sources confirmed to Goodman that "Baylor assistant coach Mark Morefield sent dozens of texts to Perea’s AAU and high school coaches in July while they were coaching events," which is against NCAA rules. According to Goodman, NCAA officials will travel to Waco later this month to interview Drew and his assistants.

When it rains, it ... well, you know.

Most problematic about the report isn't the conduct -- really, guys, more phone violations? -- but the timing. On June 22, Baylor finally, after five years, saw the NCAA's Bliss-era probation lift. Goodman's sources say that Baylor was committing these violations in July, just weeks after the probation period ended. If the timing of misconduct is correct, that means Baylor waited less than a month after its long-time probation to commit its first NCAA violation. That's not something the NCAA will be particularly fond of.

Of course, Drew can't much help whether his star guard was arrested for allegedly punching his girlfriend in the face; that's one of those external bad situations that coaches can barely control, if at all. But Drew does have control over whether his assistant coaches are committing illegal recruiting offenses. No matter what some head coaches might say, that falls firmly in his job description. If his assistants failed, so did he.

So what does this mean for Drew's program? It's probably too early to speculate. There are any number of ways this can turn out. The most immediate consequence is that Baylor loses out on Parea, the No. 42-ranked player in his class, who is already seriously considering Indiana. (Parea is also looking at Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee.)

The long-term effect could be far more pronounced. Two months ago, Baylor was a program on the rise headed by one of the hottest young coaches in the country. The sins of the Bliss era were washed away. The future -- both immediate and long-term -- were bright.

Today, Baylor finds itself facing the prospect of a lost 2010-11 season followed by an NCAA investigation into alleged misconduct that happened almost immediately after a five-year probation that started thanks to the program's troubled past. The last thing any Baylor fan wants to talk about is that past, but, as of last night, Baylor's past isn't dead. It isn't even past.