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August 21, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Thursday, August 21st

Baylor Waiver: The NCAA has granted Baylor’s request to allow its players to transfer away from the beleagered school, without sitting out the mandatory one year. The request, which was made by Baylor president Robert Sloan on August 8th, frees any additional players from sitting out the penalty, such as Lawrence Roberts to Mississippi State and Tyrone Nelson to Prairie View. A third player, guard Kenny Taylor, who transferred to Texas, needs to secure a waiver from the Big 12, designed to prevent players from jumping to another conference team. Three other players have requested their release from the school, but have not announced new destinations as of yet: John Lucas III, Tommy Swanson, and JuCo transfer Harvey Thomas.

More Violations?: Laura Collins-Hays, former admin to ousted Baylor head coach Dave Bliss, revealed to the Dallas Morning News that Bliss had watched a closed-circuit feed of a Kansas State practice in the Baylor basketball office prior to a game, a game that Baylor won 73-70. The incident, which was first noticed by a Baylor women’s assistant on January 16th, 2002, is at this point hearsay, but has K-State coaches and fans crying foul. “If it did happen, I’d be disappointed. We’re all trying to do the same thing. We’re trying to win the game, and let’s do it the right way,” stated Kansas State head coach Jim Wooldridge.

Money Trail Cold: The infractions committee at Baylor looking into the basketball program for all possibile violations stated that there has been no proof uncovered that the money trail in the Baylor violations goes past Dave Bliss. Bliss had earlier admitted paying tuition for two players, including slain player Patrick Dennehy, a violation of NCAA rules. Allegations had been made that the Baylor Sixth Man Club was being used as a slush fund for the basketball program, but so far evidence has shown the club had no involvement in providing payments to players.

Mizzou Mess: The NCAAs investigation into the Missouri basketball program has extended past original target Ricky Clemons, and is now focusing on the recruitment of Clemons’ teammate at Southern Idaho Uche Okafor. Former Southern Idaho assistant Jay Cyriac, who is awaiting clearance from the NCAA to take a position at DePaul, has been interviewed twice about the incident, but Southern Idaho head coach Derek Zeck had so far refused to speak with investigators. Okafor, who signed with Missouri in the spring of 2001, but never played for the Tigers, as he was declared ineligible for being on the roster of a professional team in Russia. He last played for the Brooklyn Knights of the USBL.

Buff Extension: Colorado and head coach Ricardo Patton finally came together on a contract extension. The three-year deal, which will keep him in Boulder through the 2007-08 season, does not include the clause that would enable Colorado to fire him if he didn’t reach the NCAA’s twice in three seasons. Patton is 125-103 at the school in nine seasons, and has two NCAA trips, two NIT appearances, and two 20-win seasons during his tenure, along with an unblemished 8-0 Big 12 conference record at home last season. The school probably wanted to wait for the Top 10 Party Schools ranking to come out before securing their head coach.

Aztec Extension: To Aztec fans, Steve Fisher is a rock, especially in the turbulence sweeping through the athletic department of late. The Aztecs extended Fisher’s contract through the 2007-08 season, based on his turnaround of the program that has won a Mountain West Conference championship, an NCAA and an NIT appearance, and a big boost in attendance. Not all is rosy, however, as the new stricter admissions policy has cost SDSU the services of National Christian Academy (Fort Washington, Maryland) center Jabbar Young, and Fisher last month had to dismiss Mountain West Freshman of the Year Evan Burns for academic reasons. Fisher has a 240-145 record in 12 seasons as a head coach, most of which were at Michigan, where he won the national title in 1989 with the “interim” tag – going 6-0 in his first six games after the departure of Bill Frieder to Arizona State the day prior to the tournament.

Reb Extension: Mississippi head coach Rod Barnes received a raise and one-year contract extension that will lock him up in Oxford through the 2006-07 season. In his sixth year of coaching the Rebels, Barnes is 100-61, but last season saw the first losing season since 1995-96 with a 14-15 record (4-12 in the SEC). His base salary gets a bump from $107,000 to $150,000, but the total compensation is targeted between $500,000 to $600,000.

C-USA Format: Conference USA has abolished its divisional format for this season, instead opting for a format where all 14 teams play at least once, plus a home-and-home with three schools. Each of the three schools were selected based on traditional rivalries, so as an example, Cincinnati will play each C-USA team once, with home-and-home series against DePaul, Louisville, and Charlotte. Not all school schedules have been finalized. The Conference USA tournament, also to be held in Cincinnati, will have the top 12 finishers in the regular season, with the top four teams receiving byes.

Kansas Violations: During his stay in Kansas, new North Carolina head coach Roy Williams self-reported ten NCAA secondary violations. Williams agreed with new Jayhawk coach Bill Self, who stated that “If you are not turning yourself in for secondary violations, your compliance program is not doing a very good job. If they’re reported, it shows you’re on top of your business.” A sampling of Williams’ violations: A player played in an approved summer league without written permission (permission granted retroactively); an assistant coach drove two recruits to a restaurant 2/10ths of a mile from the practice facility to avoid crossing a dangerous highway; and former assistant Matt Doherty, who Williams is replacing at North Carolina, once was interviewed by a local station during halftime of a high school game – his alma mater.

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