After Patrick Dennehy was murdered by his teammate and falsely portrayed by his Baylor coach as a drug dealer, his stepfather was too angry to watch college basketball.
But now, nearly five years after the Waco, Texas, murder rocked the campus and made national headlines, Brian Brabazon says he's started to heal.
``I hated Baylor for a long time,'' Brabazon told The Associated Press by telephone Thursday from his home in Carson City, Nev. ``But time heals things. I read about the new coach, and I started changing my opinion of Baylor. Now I'm actually rooting for them.''
No. 25 Baylor (16-3, 4-1 Big 12) is in the national rankings for the first time in 39 years, even staying in the poll this week after a loss. The Bears, near the top of the Big 12 standings, are on track for their first NCAA tournament berth since 1988.
It's been a long road for Baylor and for Brabazon, who raised Dennehy since he was a toddler.
Dennehy's family was heartbroken after the 21-year-old's body was found in chest-high weeds in a Waco field in 2003, six weeks after he was reported missing. He had been shot twice in the head. Carlton Dotson, his best friend and teammate, later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Then the family's grief turned to outrage when then-coach Dave Bliss made up a story that Dennehy had paid for his tuition by dealing drugs. Bliss actually had improperly paid up to $40,000 in tuition for Dennehy and another player.
In the wake of the NCAA violations, the world's largest Baptist university issued self-imposed sanctions on the team, which also had half a season taken away by the NCAA.
Brabazon said he thought the punishment was not enough but took some pleasure in the team's dismal seasons.
After his stepson's death he also suffered more in his personal life as his 20-year marriage to Dennehy's mother fell apart, and the couple divorced. Their daughter, now 19, lives with her father.
But Brabazon renewed his faith and held onto memories of Dennehy, who called him ``dad.'' He wondered how Baylor was doing under new coach Scott Drew and began searching the newspaper and Internet for news on the team.
``Unfortunately, that was God's plan for Patrick, and that was God's plan for Carlton,'' Brabazon said. ``But his death changed college sports forever, so he did accomplish some important things.''
Brabazon said he has even forgiven Dotson, who is housed at a prison unit in East Texas.
``But that doesn't mean that when he comes up for parole, I won't be there to fight it,'' Brabazon said. ``He should serve all of his sentence.''
Brabazon, now remarried with a 7-month-old son, said what may have helped heal him most was seeing a tribute to Dennehy on Baylor's basketball Web site - even though Dennehy never played a game for the Bears because he was sitting out to satisfy transfer rules.
``That's another reason I want Baylor to succeed,'' he said, crying. ``It does mean a lot that they remember Patrick.''
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