|Friday, July 25
Updated: July 28, 4:58 PM ET
Committee to probe Dennehy payment accusations
WACO, Texas -- Amid an internal inquiry into whether Baylor coaches made improper payments to missing basketball center Patrick Dennehy, university officials have activated a three-member compliance investigation committee.
"Our goal is, of course, to get at the truth in this matter," committee member Bill Underwood said at a news conference Friday. "To find out what the facts really are, we intend to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.
"We intend at the same time to be fair to all the individuals involved. And with those goals in mind, the university's central administration has committed to providing our committee with all of the resources necessary to complete our job."
He said the committee has already started interviewing people but would not say who they were. Underwood said he did not know how long the probe would take.
The standing committee -- all Baylor Law School professors -- has hired an outside counsel, former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, to assist in determining whether the men's basketball program violated NCAA rules. Underwood called Watson -- a Baylor Law School graduate -- "a person with an impeccable reputation" who previously has helped Baylor and Texas Tech with such investigations.
Baylor's beleaguered athletic department opened an internal inquiry this week into whether coaches made improper payments to Dennehy -- a claim denied by coach Dave Bliss and his staff. Pressure has intensified as Dennehy's family traveled to the Waco campus to retrieve the player's belongings from his apartment and meet with police who have been searching for the 21-year-old's body.
Dennehy's former teammate Carlton Dotson has been charged with murder in his disappearance; Dennehy is presumed dead. Dotson confessed to killing Dennehy, who has been missing since mid-June, according to an arrest complaint released Tuesday, and remains jailed in Maryland awaiting an extradition hearing.
Underwood said, "We're going to be looking into every allegation that has been reported in the press and may be reported in the press ... as well as looking into other issues that we may encounter on our own." Underwood is joined on the committee by fellow law professors Mike Rogers and David Guinn.
The accusations stem from reports that a Baylor coach told Dennehy his education and living expenses would be paid if he gave up his scholarship. All three Baylor law professors have been involved in previous investigations of Baylor athletic programs.
Watson was involved in the 1993-94 investigation of the Baylor men's basketball program, which centered on coaches illegally doing correspondence course work for players. The investigation led to an FBI inquiry in which three Baylor assistant coaches were convicted of mail and wire fraud.
Baylor became the first Southwest Conference school where officials self-imposed probation in 1994. The university's self-imposed two-year probation from postseason tournament play was later reduced to one year by the NCAA infractions committee.
Accusations made this week involve Baylor assistant coach Rodney Belcher, who recruited Dennehy from the University of New Mexico to Baylor.
The player's father, Patrick Dennehy Sr., told the Dallas Morning News for Wednesday's editions that a Baylor coach assured his son the school would help him pay tuition and living expenses after the player gave up his scholarship for a year at the request of the basketball staff. He later confirmed he was referring to Belcher.
NCAA rules limit schools to giving no more than eight scholarships for men's basketball over a two-year period. Interestingly, one of Baylor's last scholarships last season went to Dotson. He lost it recently, though, and was not expected to return in the fall
Dotson's estranged wife, Melissa Kethley, told The Dallas Morning News for a story in Saturday editions that there were other problems with the men's basketball team. She said Dotson told her he often got cash from his assistant coaches.
Kethley also told the newspaper that she witnessed Dotson fake a drug test and that 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 said Dotson passed a test at a time she knew he and five or six teammates were smoking marijuana.
"I know they used to smoke weed almost every single day," Kethley said. "Half of them used to go to practice high because they used to smoke at my house before they went."
Baylor athletics spokesman Scott Stricklin declined to comment Friday on Kethley's allegations.
Dennehy's father also said his son's girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa, told him Belcher paid for her cab ride from Waco to Dallas. De La Rosa was declared ineligible for track competition at New Mexico because of the estimated $130 cab ride. The younger Dennehy's car ride with Belcher from Albuquerque, N.M., to Waco last spring could be a violation of NCAA rules pertaining to extra benefits for athletes.
Also, allegations have surfaced that Dennehy received $1,200 to $1,800 from an assistant coach toward a car loan for his 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe, which was later found abandoned in Virginia Beach, Va. Adriana Gallegos, Dennehy's former girlfriend, said he gave her the impression Baylor was going to buy him a sport utility vehicle after he made his recruiting visit.