Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss, who has responded to allegations of NCAA rules violations by citing his history of integrity, left his job as coach at Southern Methodist in 1988 shortly after an internal investigation uncovered evidence of infractions similar to those that resulted in the "death penalty" for SMU's football program, an NCAA memo prepared at the time reveals.
The memo, obtained by the Star-Telegram, outlines several matters that would typically be considered major rules violations, including booster payments to star center Jon Koncak. Neither Bliss nor the SMU program was penalized by the NCAA.
Robert L. Stroup III, the NCAA enforcement representative who wrote the memo, told the Star-Telegram that he stopped investigating the SMU basketball program at the direction of his supervisor at the time. He said his supervisor's reasoning was that the university had already paid a heavy price for its football violations.
"It was at a point where there could have been another major [infractions] case, but back then, cases would take two, three years to complete. It was just kind of decided, 'We gave them the worst [penalty]. What more can we do?' " said Stroup, who left the NCAA in 1993 to practice law in Fargo, N.D.
Bliss' commitment to following NCAA rules has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the shooting death of Baylor player Patrick Dennehy. (Former teammate Carlton Dotson of Hurlock, Md., charged with the murder of Dennehy, is jailed in Kent County awaiting extradition.)
University president Robert Sloan has appointed a panel to examine potential NCAA violations, including the possibility that improper financial assistance allowed Dennehy to attend Baylor during the 2002-2003 academic year without an athletic scholarship.
At a news conference Monday, Bliss said he has always complied with NCAA rules. "I know that there have been allegations that we haven't followed the rules. We have followed the rules, however difficult they may be, for 30 years," Bliss said.
None of the schools where Bliss has coached has been cited for NCAA infractions during his time there.
Bliss spent eight seasons at SMU, leading the Mustangs to three NCAA tournament appearances. He left for the coaching job at New Mexico in May 1988, just months after Stroup's report was completed. Bliss was at New Mexico for 11 years before moving to Baylor in 1999.
According to the memo, a major portion of the Stroup's report on Bliss' program at SMU involved statements from Koncak, a second-team All-America pick as a senior in 1984-85.
Koncak was quoted as telling the investigators he received at least $2,000 to $5,000 from two boosters during his junior and senior years. The boosters he cited were among the nine whose association with the university's athletic program was ended because of their role in the football scandal.