When Baylor coach Scott Drew led his team to the Elite Eight last season, he was rightly credited with one of the best rebuilding jobs in recent history. Drew had been hired in 2003 in the wake of a calamitous scandal touched off by the murder of Bears player Patrick Dennehy by his teammate Carlton Dotson earlier that year. In the following two years the NCAA uncovered so many major violations committed under former coach Dave Bliss that Baylor was not permitted to play nonconference games in 2005--06. But last season was the Bears' best in 60 years, and with the core of that team returning and being joined by one of the nation's top freshmen, 6'11" forward Perry Jones, optimism was sky-high in Waco for the season to come.
Lately, however, the team's outlook has darkened considerably. On Oct. 5 the Bears' leading scorer of 2009--10, senior guard LaceDarius Dunn, was suspended after being arrested on a charge of felony aggravated assault for allegedly breaking his girlfriend's jaw on Sept. 27. Then, on Oct. 12, Foxsports.com reported that the NCAA is investigating allegations that assistant coach Mark Morefield sent several text messages to the coaches of a recruit during the July evaluation period, which is an NCAA violation. Worse, in one of the messages Morefield appears to have threatened that the recruit, Hanner Perea, a 6'9" forward at a private school in La Porte, Ind., would be deported to his native Colombia if Perea were to commit to a college other than Baylor.
Dunn's girlfriend said through her lawyer that her jaw was not broken and that she wants the charges against Dunn dropped, but the Waco police are continuing to investigate. Though a committee of Baylor students and teachers allowed Dunn to return to class and to participate in the team's first practice, last Friday, he remains indefinitely suspended from competition. Baylor's first game is on Nov. 12, against Grambling State.
The NCAA investigation is the more serious threat. Baylor will probably have to turn over all of its coaches' phone records, among other documents, and if the evidence reveals a pattern of rule breaking, the penalty will most likely be severe, given the program's recent past. If Morefield really is a serial offender—and if he did threaten to have a kid deported—the school should fire him. Playing deep into March is nice, but this administration must show unequivocally that the new Baylor is not like the old Baylor.
ON HOLD Dunn's legal woes will keep him on the bench for now.