Skip to comments.Bliss planned Baylor cover-up
Posted on 08/15/2003 11:45:46 PM PDT by Timesink
Posted on Fri, Aug. 15, 2003
"What we've got to create here is drugs," Bliss said in one of the conversations, which were taped by assistant coach Abar Rouse with a concealed microcassette recorder on July 30 and 31 and Aug. 1.
The tapes also reveal that Bliss knew some players smoked marijuana and that Baylor coaches weren't truthful when they made public statements indicating they had no knowledge of threats allegedly made against Dennehy by Harvey Thomas, the heralded junior-college recruit who arrived in Waco in late spring.
Rouse, who joined the coaching staff June 1, made the tapes available to the Star-Telegram on Friday, shortly before he met with an NCAA enforcement official and Baylor's investigative committee. The group was set up last month to look into allegations of wrongdoing relating to the payment of Dennehy's tuition and other issues.
Reached at his home late Friday, Bliss told the Star-Telegram that he had been trying to "share some of the stories that I had heard, and I was completely wrong in what I did."
"But the bizarre circumstances painted me into a corner and I chose the wrong way to react," Bliss said. "As of last Friday [Aug. 8], however, those days are over and I have cooperated completely and will continue to do so because I know I have disappointed a lot of people."
Bliss met with the investigative committee for more than two hours Friday night at Baylor University's Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center.
Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. issued a statement Friday night expressing outrage at Bliss.
"I feel betrayed by this attempt by our former basketball coach to suppress and conceal the truth," he said. "This further validates the work of our investigative attorneys, who in less than three weeks uncovered major violations, resulting in the resignation of Coach Bliss.
"I want to say to every member of the Baylor family that we will get to the bottom of this and will continue to communicate our findings in as open and transparent fashion as possible."
Kirk Watson, counsel for the Baylor investigative committee, said the committee members were stunned by what they heard on the tapes.
"These tapes are evidence of a desperate person trying to cover up his activities," Watson said. "It is shocking. But the good news is it failed.
"Clearly, he was encouraging embellishment ... to try to cover himself."
Watson said the committee was determining its next step.
"I believe the committee, the recommendation, will be that these tapes be turned over to the proper authorities to determine whether a criminal violation took place," he said.
Bliss resigned Aug. 8, saying the committee had made him aware of the rules violations a day earlier. At the time, Sloan said the committee found that two players had received improper tuition payments and that Bliss had admitted involvement.
Rouse said Friday that he began making the secret recordings after Bliss told him that he would lose his job if he didn't help carry out the scheme. But Rouse said he opposed portraying Dennehy in an inaccurate light.
Rouse said that after he expressed his misgivings to Bliss, he found on his desk a copy of Bliss' contract with the section on assistant coaches highlighted. The section describes Bliss' authority to hire and fire assistants. Rouse provided the Star-Telegram with that portion of the contract.
Rouse, a Baylor graduate who worked as an assistant coach at McLennan Community College in 2001-02, said he joined the Baylor basketball staff as director of basketball operations and was promoted to full-fledged assistant coach in late July.
Dennehy was reported missing in June. After his disappearance, Dennehy's father and others raised questions about the payment of Dennehy's tuition and other expenses. Dennehy, who transferred to Baylor from the University of New Mexico last year, was no longer on scholarship. Patrick Dennehy Sr. said that he was aware almost from the start that the Baylor coaching staff had arrangements to pay tuition fees for his son but that he chose not to interfere.
Dennehy's body was found in a gravel pit near Waco on July 25, more than a month after he was reported missing. An autopsy has determined that he died from two bullet wounds to the head.
Dennehy's teammate and friend Carlton Dotson has reportedly confessed to the shooting and remains jailed in Maryland awaiting an extradition hearing next week.
Rouse's tapes paint a picture of Bliss unseen by the public in a career as an NCAA Division I head coach that spans 28 years, the last four at Baylor, the world's largest Baptist institution.
The tapes reveal that Bliss orchestrated a plan in which two players were instructed to give the university's investigative committee information indicating that Dennehy could have paid $7,000 in tuition with money he made by selling drugs.
On the tapes, Bliss says that Dennehy's summer league coach, Nelson Washington, had come forward to say he paid the $2,000 down payment on Dennehy's Chevrolet Tahoe and that the players could create the "perception" that Dennehy sold drugs to pay his tuition. He suggested that the players tell the investigators they saw Dennehy with a tray containing a variety of drugs and with a roll of $100 bills.
Washington said Friday that he didn't make the down payment and that he never told Bliss that he did.
In the taped conversations, the two players acknowledged smoking marijuana with Dennehy, but neither said he saw Dennehy use or sell harder drugs.
"First of all, nobody is ever going to know about the fact you might have smoked weed with the guys," Bliss told one player. "I think the thing we want to do _ and you think about this _ if there's a way we can create the perception that Pat may have been a dealer. Even if we had to kind of make some things look a little better than they are, that can save us."
During the same conversation, Bliss pointed out that Dennehy couldn't refute anything that would be said about him.
"You don't even have to tell me about Dotson because he's still alive," Bliss said. "But Dennehy is never going to refute what we say.
"I've got some things to say about him, because he came in and tried to get me to help him with something, and I told him, `I can't help you.' Now I know that ticked him off, but he knows that's the truth. And now he's dead, so he isn't going to argue with me at all."
Dennehy's stepfather, Brian Brabazon, expressed outrage when he learned of the tapes Friday.
"You know what? Somebody is going down, because that is bull talking like that, especially trying to besmirch my son's name when he is dead," Brabazon said.
Ellis Kidd Sr., whose son played for Bliss, said he was shocked that Bliss would instruct players on what to tell investigators.
"That's very unethical, very unethical practice for a coach to even think about asking a kid something like that," he said. "I just can't hardly believe he would ask someone to do that."
Kidd, head basketball coach at Madison High School in Dallas, said parents entrust their children to the coaches and the schools.
"I become like a father figure to them," he said. "You don't tell them nothing that would be wrong. It's kind of hard to believe that coaches would do this."
Although most of Bliss' comments pertained to how the players should deal with the university's investigative committee, he told one player that talking to the McLennan County Sheriff's Department, which took over the murder investigation from Waco police when Dennehy's body was found, would give him the opportunity to "practice" his story.
The tapes do not indicate whether the players followed through on Bliss' advice.
Bliss and others could face both criminal and NCAA penalties in connection with the plan.
Under NCAA rules, institutional staff members and student-athletes can be cited for unethical conduct, a major violation, for knowingly furnishing the NCAA or school officials with false or misleading information relating to possible infractions.
Tom Yeager, chairman of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, said the rule can be applied even in cases in which individuals ultimately tell the truth.
"There will always be an issue with someone trying to discourage others from reporting truthful information when requested to do so," he said.
Under the Texas Penal Code, making a false report to a peace officer is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.
Speaking to Rouse alone in one of the taped conversations, Bliss indicated that Thomas, the star junior-college recruit, would be willing to lie about Dennehy's activities.
"[Expletive], yeah," Bliss said. "Harvey will throw himself on a grenade. He's the best. That [expletive] will lie when the truth is easier."
Bliss indicated that Thomas' loyalty stemmed from the fact that Baylor coaches publicly said they knew nothing about the player's alleged threats when the matter was raised by Dennehy's friends and family.
"Harvey will do anything," Bliss told Rouse. "And the reason is because we did it for Harvey."
After Rouse responded by saying, "I'm with you," Bliss added: "You know, I mean, we stuck up for ... That's why we're in this jam, we stuck up for Harvey. I said there were no threats, and all these people got ticked at me."
Thomas hung up the phone when asked to comment Friday night. He has said that he had not made any threats against Dennehy or Dotson and had no involvement in Dennehy's death.
In a conversation with Rouse and one player, Bliss indicated he had received information about Dennehy's alleged drug involvement from Robert Fuller, the Waco police detective who initially investigated Dennehy's disappearance, and Bill Underwood, a member of the Baylor law faculty who is serving on the university's investigative committee.
"Bob Fuller is the investigator, and Bill Underwood is the lawyer for Baylor," Bliss said in a comment directed at the player. "He [Underwood] is on our side, and Bob Fuller's on our side, because they know that Pat was doing [expletive]."
The investigative committee believes that Bliss' mention of Underwood and Fuller to the players was an attempt to make the players feel "comfortable" about embellishing stories by using the names of people in authority, said Watson, the counsel for the committee.
But the committee believes that Underwood and Fuller were not involved in any cover-up, Watson said, and Bliss told the committee on Friday that Underwood was not involved.
In a taped conversation with Rouse, Bliss referred to spending two hours with an unnamed university attorney. Bliss said the attorney told him that "reasonable doubt" would be enough to sink some of the allegations that have surfaced.
"He said, `This is the first time they've ever had an NCAA investigation with a dead person,' " Bliss said. "So we don't have to have overwhelming evidence. All we've got to have is any reasonable doubt, because I've got 30 years in the business with no bad track record. Now we've got somebody who's off the wall [Dotson]. We've got a couple of people who are angry."
At one point, speaking only to Rouse, Bliss said he asked Baylor athletic director Tom Stanton whether an unidentified university attorney believed the coaches' explanations.
"He [Stanton] said, `You know what he [the lawyer] does [believe]? He believes you. And he believes that you wouldn't do anything like this. And he also believes that with a dead man, he doesn't have to come up with the same type of proof. All he has to have is reasonable doubt,' " Bliss said.
"In other words, granted, the guy [Dennehy] didn't pay $7,000 of his tuition, but, by this time in his life, he was buying a $3,000 setup for a TV in his van. He was buying two $600 dogs. He was buying guns. He was buying all kinds of stuff."
The father of one of the players named on the tape said late Friday that his son had told him about talking to a detective and he had instructed him to tell the truth.
Until he hears the tapes, he said, he won't believe that Bliss tried to coach his son to give police misleading information.
"I'm upset that Bliss would even think about doing something like that because I know the man and I never would have thought he'd do anything like that. Still, until I hear the tapes myself, personally, I'm going to say no.
"I've never heard anything like that from any of the boys or anything, to coerce them into saying this stuff."
Click on the image above for a transcript of some conversations, a timeline and photographs of the key people.
And that doesn't begin to mitigate the attempt to smear a dead man.
Southern Baptist, if you can believe it.
But Sports is a Religion in Texas and nothing usurps it's pre-eminance, except murder it seems.
What an a-hole to smear a dead guy.
What a reprehensible scumbag! There truly is a special place in hell for people like this.
Valerie, publicly eating crow here! Early on, I wouldn't believe Bliss was capable of such deception, plotting and self-serving obstruction. As a member of The Baylor Fast Break Club during part of Bliss' tenure here, I am stunned. My daughter and his son run in the same crowd, and I truly feel awful for his family. The man seemed to have character in spades. This is sick beyond belief.
Carlton Dotson has been charged with Donnehy's murder. Members of Dotson's family has reported that Dotson complained of hearing voices. Was those voices Bliss's voices. I am not the least bit inclined to believe that Dotson acted alone in this. Just what else is Bliss covering up. Bliss had to know that Donnehey was dead all along.
And to add insult to injury this scum (Bliss) had the nerve to attend Donnehy's funeral.
Bliss needs some serious prison time.
I never met the man, but his demeanor and the words he chose to use on TV interviews when Dennehy was reported missing set off alarms for me. It was all schmoooooozy Christian platitudes that sounded exactly like what people would want to hear, and could have been applied to any question or situation at all. I've seen these corrupt charlatans operate before, and Bliss was a classic case - all image, no substance. Fooling people was his number one mission - not coaching. He is dangerous.
At this rate, Carlton Dotson could possibly be a sacrificial lamb also. Dotson could have been running for his life. There is something definately weird about this case.
Dotson goes to a grocer in his home town, calls 911 on his cell and informs the 911 rep that police was trying to keep tabs on him and turns himself in. FBI says Dalton confessed to the murder of Donnehy and Dalton states he did not confess. A few days later Dotson is being lead into a courthouse or jailhouse by authorities while he (Dotson) is looking around himself and behind himself as if he was afraid that someone was after him. Something is definately weird about this case.