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Several players already planning to leave

By Andy Katz

A mass exodus from Baylor could occur after the NCAA approved a waiver allowing players to transfer and play immediately this season without serving a one-year in residence penalty.

NCAA spokesperson Jeff Howard confirmed on Wednesday that the waiver has been granted. That offers Baylor players some relief from a tumultuous summer from the tragic death of teammate Patrick Dennehy, the arrest of Baylor's Carlton Dotson for the alleged murder, NCAA violations and a cover-up by former head coach Dave Bliss of illegal tuition payments for Dennehy and Corey Herring.

Players will be allowed to transfer without penalty only if they weren't involved in any NCAA violations.

The waiver also means Wooden preseason all-American Lawrence Roberts will be able to play immediately at Mississippi State. Roberts, the Bears' leading scorer and rebounder last season, announced Monday that he was transferring to Mississippi State for his final two seasons of eligibility.

The NCAA wanted to speed up the process of the waiver, since many schools start classes this week (Baylor starts Monday).

"The NCAA did the right thing,'' Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "This wasn't just for Lawrence but for all of those kids.''

Roberts told Houston television station KRIV that he was excited about the NCAA's decision.

"That means a lot because that is what we were shooting for -- to be able to transfer and play immediately," Roberts told the station. "That's huge, being able to transfer and play right away keeps the fire going."

Making the ruling was a five-person subcommittee of the NCAA's Management Council named the Administrative Review Subcommittee.

Howard told the Associated Press he was unsure if the NCAA had ever granted such a wide-spread ruling about transfer waivers.

"I can't say for sure that this has never happened," he said. "But this was definitely a very unusual circumstance."

Junior guard Kenny Taylor announced Tuesday that he was transferring to Texas. Taylor can play this season for the Longhorns but he must wait to hear from the Big 12 if he has one or two seasons of eligibility remaining. The penalty for transferring within the Big 12 is sitting out one year (per NCAA rules) and losing one year of eligibility. The waiver only provides relief from having to sit out one year.

Baylor president Robert Sloan plans to lobby for Taylor to not lose a year of eligibility under Big 12 rules. Taylor is expected to have that penalty rescinded.

Incoming freshman Tyrone Nelson has opted to attend Prairie View A&M instead of Baylor. But he must get clearance from the National Letter of Intent committee if he wants to play this season after breaking his commitment. The committee has been lenient with players who go through coaching changes, and Nelson is expected to be able to play this season.

Junior guard John Lucas III has a release and is looking at Memphis, Georgia, Rutgers, Oklahoma State and San Diego State. Roberts led the Bears with a 15.2-point average, with Lucas averaging 13.3 points and Taylor averaging 11.8 points.

Seniors Matt Sayman and R.T. Guinn originally had committed to stay at Baylor but that was prior to the NCAA's decision. Newcomers Harvey Thomas and Carl Marshall and returnees Terrance Thomas, Tommy Swanson, Corey Herring and Ellis Kidd Jr. also might all look for new destinations.

Harvey Thomas currently is looking at Auburn. The school plans a background check to see if he's worth taking. Auburn, which started school Wednesday, did receive a release and has 12 days to get him enrolled.

Sayman's father, Lloyd Sayman, said Wednesday night that the ruling doesn't change anything for his son.

"This whole mess involves half-a-dozen people and we're not going to throw away what Baylor stands for,'' Sayman said.

Baylor and the Big 12 are adamant that the school still will field a team even if the Bears don't have a single scholarship player remaining. Baylor president Robert Sloan said the Bears will put a team on the court. Shutting down the program for a season isn't an option because of contractual obligations for the Big 12, non-conference games and radio and television.

Meanwhile, the search for a new coach continues. Sam Houston State's Bob Marlin, Samford's Jimmy Tillette, Texas-Pan American's Bob Hoffman, Central Missouri State's Kim Anderson and Indiana assistant John Treloar have all been mentioned but not officially contacted. Butler assistant and former Liberty coach Jeff Meyer also could be added to the list.

The addition of Roberts puts puts the Bulldogs back in contention in the SEC West after losing junior Mario Austin and incoming freshman Travis Outlaw to the NBA draft. The Bulldogs were also supposed to get 6-10 Wojciecek Barycz of Poland but he signed a contract with Benetton Treviso of Italy.

Roberts chose Mississippi State over Arizona and Indiana without taking visits to the latter two schools. Roberts' grandparents on his father's side are from Gulfport, Miss., and his mother's family is from Louisiana.

"There was no sales pitch,'' Stansbury said of Roberts' visit last weekend. "He compared the programs and saw who had the most need.''

The Bulldogs are strong on the perimeter with Timmy Bowers, freshman point Gary Ervin and incoming Iowa State transfer Shane Power. But the front-court returners -- Ontario Harper, Winsome Frazier, Branden Vincent and Marcus Campbell.-- are inexperienced and were unproductive last season. None of the four players averaged more than 7.3 points a game.

"Lawrence can step in here and really be a factor for us,'' Stansbury said. "He can take us to the level that we have been before. We recruited Travis Outlaw for four years and lose him to the NBA before he gets here and we recruit Lawrence for four days and get him. He's a great kid and we're fortunate to have him.''

Roberts said Monday night that he wanted to go to Mississippi State because he would be the center of the team. He's expecting to be the go-to player.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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