King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The Patrick Dennehy tragedy has nothing to do with sports, yet it may still reveal some of the corruption endemic to college athletics.

By Salon Staff
Published July 28, 2003 7:00PM (EDT)

The case of Patrick Dennehy, the missing Baylor basketball player whose decomposed remains were identified Sunday, is utterly tragic in every way and doesn't appear to have anything to do with sports. If the police theory is true, it's a case of two college buddies making the frequent and often deadly mistake of thinking that owning a handgun makes a person less likely to be harmed by another.

Authorities found a body Friday in the area near Waco, Texas, where they'd been searching for the remains of Dennehy, and Sunday the body was identified as Dennehy's. His friend and former teammate, Carlton Dotson, is being held in Maryland awaiting an extradition hearing. Police say he's confessed to shooting Dennehy in the head after the two got into an argument while shooting guns they'd acquired to protect themselves.

But here's the part of this awful story that pertains to the sports world: The intense attention the case has brought to Baylor has resulted in allegations that the school has broken NCAA rules. The university has appointed a committee to look into charges of rules violations involving the basketball team and Dennehy.

Dennehy's father, Patrick Sr., told the Dallas Morning News that a Baylor assistant coach promised his son the school would help pay his expenses if he gave up his scholarship for a year while he was ineligible to play, and that the coach, Rodney Belcher, paid for a $130 cab ride from Waco to Dallas by Dennehy's girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa. De La Rosa, a track athlete at the University of New Mexico, has been declared ineligible for accepting that ride.

The younger Dennehy's former girlfriend, Adriana Gallegos, told the Waco Tribune-Herald that he had given her the impression Baylor had helped him buy and appoint a used SUV. "He came back to Albuquerque and said they were going to hook him up pretty well," Gallegos told the paper. "Every time I saw him, there was new stuff inside the SUV. He had a real nice stereo system. In Albuquerque [where Dennehy had gone to the University of New Mexico before transferring to Baylor], he didn't have all that."

All of these allegations may be false. The Dennehy case has been bizarre from the start, and perhaps all of these people slinging charges around are part of some kind of wild conspiracy that I can't even imagine.

But what I really can't imagine is a spotlight being shined on any Division I college program without these types of things oozing into the light.

We're not talking about a powerhouse here, you understand. This isn't a basketball factory desperate to stay on top. Baylor is an also-ran, a doormat. The Bears routinely win about half of their games overall, and much less than that in the Big 12 conference. You only have to be in the top 20 percent of teams to make the NCAA Tournament, and Baylor hasn't done that since 1988. Except Texas A&M, another doormat that hasn't been to March Madness since '87, every team in the Big 12 has gone to the Tournament at least once since 1996.

But if some of these allegations are true even Baylor must stoop to illegal shenanigans just to maintain its position as a Big 12 punching bag.

Obviously the real crime here is murder. Slipping some ballplayer a few bucks under the table is nothing compared to the calamity of Dennehy's death.

My point is that every time we learn something about big-time college sports, we learn how corrupt they are. The system is rotten to its core. It has nothing to do with the fact that one player may have killed another -- people in all walks of life kill each other every day. It's just that it's gotten so bad, you have to cheat just to lose.

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