Scott Drew has overcome all odds to win at Baylor.
Via Giphy

Scandals, Probation, and Murder: The Story of Scott Drew

Matt Trombley, Nathan Baugh

18 years ago, Scott Drew took the most challenging job in college basketball.

No, we're not exaggerating.

He overcame scandal, probation, recruiting penalties, and even murder to win Baylor’s first national title in 2021.

Here’s the crazy story you probably haven’t heard:

In 2003, Carlton Dotson murdered Baylor teammate Patrick Dennehy. Dave Bliss, the head coach, was paying multiple players’ tuitions. Bliss blamed Dennehy, who’d been killed by a teammate, for everything. Bliss was fired, and punishments poured in.

These punishments included reduced scholarships, reduced official recruiting visits, a 1 season non-conference ban, a 10 season probation, and a 10 year show cause penalty on Bliss for “despicable behavior”. Scott Drew walked into this situation expecting to win a title.

How good was Baylor's basketball team when Drew took over? To put it nicely, Baylor sucked. From 2003-2007, the Bears won a total of 36 games, or ~7 games per year. But, with recruiting restrictions ending, Drew got his recruits and started to win some games.

Slowly but surely the records started to improve:

  • 2008: 21-9, 4th in the Big 12
  • 2010: Beat in-state power Texas 3 straight times, finished 2nd in the Big 12, but lost to Duke in the Elite 8
  • 2012: Rise to #3 in the country, finish 3rd in the Big 12

But with any progress, there's bound to be some upsets along the way and the Bears hit a wall:

  • 2013: Miss March Madness
  • 2015: Lose to 14-seed Georgia State in the Round of 64
  • 2016: Lose to 12-seed Yale in the Round of 64

Then, in the 2019-2020 season, Baylor was back - a sure fire 1 or 2-seed; a true contender. Enter, Covid-19. The best season in Baylor history (26-4, #4 in the country) is cancelled. College basketball, and the world, grind to a halt. Drew vows the Bears will be as good or better in 2021, but nobody knows if the season will happen.

And happen it does. Baylor dominates early, ranked #2 behind Gonzaga. Again, Covid-19 strikes and Drew tests positive. Baylor misses 21 days and, in their return, suffer their 1st loss to Kansas. Drew calls the Covid-19 protocols Baylor’s “kryptonite”.

At this point, the Bears begin to bounce back. Despite losing to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tourney, Baylor enters the NCAA tourney as a 1-seed for the first time in school history and cruises to the Final Four. But upsets are abound, and Gonzaga is crushing everybody while Baylor flies under the radar.

In a battle for Texas, Baylor dominates 2-seed Houston 78-59; but again, Gonzaga steals the spotlight by beating UCLA on a Jalen Suggs buzzer-beater. The Zags are talked about as the best team ever and Baylor enters the natty a 5-point underdog...

Does that deter Drew? Not one bit. He draws up the perfect gameplan and his squad executes to perfection. Baylor doesn’t trail the entire game. 18 years after taking the toughest job in college basketball, Scott Drew led Baylor to its first men’s national title.

Against all the odds, Drew emerged victorious; but this begs the question - can he do it again?

Want Sideline Sprint, the best daily sports newsletter, delivered to your inbox every morning? Try it today - it's free.