Dave Bliss talks about his fall from coaching, finding grace
A former Baylor assistant basketball coach-turned-whistleblower on Monday sharply rebuked former head coach Dave Bliss, who is heard in an upcoming documentary repeating his claim that a player slain in 2003 sold drugs “to all the white guys on campus” to pay for his tuition at the Baptist university in Waco.
In off-camera remarks to the producer of “Disgraced,” Bliss, 73, reasserted his claim that Patrick Dennehy “was selling drugs,” and reinforced the claim later by saying “he was the worst.”
In an interview Monday, Abar Rouse, the assistant with a conscience who broke open the scandal by secretly recording Bliss trying to coerce Rouse and players into believing the narrative about Dennehy to keep NCAA and law enforcement investigators at bay, said of Bliss: “He’s an old man who is clinging to his last breath of justification for the ultimate sin in his life.”
“He is looking for anything … he has very little to cling to. Why not double down? ‘Everybody else wronged me.’
“This is who this guy is. He is very calculating. That’s what he’s trying to do. They caught Dave being Dave, didn’t they?”
Bliss ultimately resigned his job at Baylor in August 2003 after his scheme was revealed. Rouse lives and works in Fort Worth.
In June of 2003, Dennehy was shot twice in the head near a gravel pit three miles from campus. His teammate Carlton Dotson pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Authorities investigating the case found no evidence to suggest the murder was drug related, nor was there any evidence Dennehy was selling drugs, much less using supposed profits to pay for his tuition.
As part of penalties assessed Bliss by the NCAA in 2005, the coach admitted to paying for Dennehy’s tuition.
Bliss intimated to “Disgraced” producer Patrick Kondelis that he made the admission in order to make a civil lawsuit filed against him by Dennehy’s family “go away.”
In an interview with CBS Sports, Bliss contended that “I’m not exonerating myself, but everything I said [in 2003] was true.” In the same interview he provided different versions of how he got the alleged information about Dennehy.
He said he heard from players but also read about it in a news story.
CBS cited a story in the Dallas Morning News from August 2003 in which then-interim Baylor president William Underwood “acknowledged” investigative committee questions could have caused Bliss “to conclude that drug dealing was a plausible explanation for Mr. Dennehy’s money.”
“They thought [Dennehy] paid for his scholarship because he was selling drugs because you know — this is off camera — he was selling drugs,” Bliss is heard telling Kondelis.
“Patrick Dennehy was selling drugs?” Kondelis asked.
“Oh, yeah, he was the worst,” said Bliss, who added that Dennehy’s parents knew he was “a druggie.”
“Disgraced” debuted Sunday at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. It will debut on Showtime on March 31.
Said Rouse, who also appears in the documentary: “Tell Dave to get a new Plan B. Not Plan B recycled.”
Bliss just finished his second season as coach at NAIA Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, Okla., a school of the Sooner Athletic Conference, which includes Texas Wesleyan.
His biography on the school’s website tells of his life as a public speaker after the Baylor scandal. “The focus of his message is to encourage young people, especially coaches, to ‘guard their hearts,’ as he shares how his life has been shaped through life’s trials and God’s grace and faithfulness. This effort culminated in his recently-released book, ‘Fall to Grace.’ More than a decade after his indiscretions at Baylor, Bliss openly shares his personal journey from worldly fame, to humiliation, to spiritual discovery and the unfathomable grace revealed to him by a God who wants to give us all a second chance at life.”
After Baylor, Bliss was the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Allen Academy in Bryan, a TAPPS institution. While there, Bliss was suspended by TAPPS for one year and the school placed on two years’ probation for offering student-athletes inducements.
“We found them to be in violation of inducement, free or reduced room and board, free or reduced tuition,” TAPPS director Edd Burleson said at the time. “We had it in black and white, in their own documentation.”
Said Rouse when he saw Bliss had been hired at Southwestern Christian: “I just thought to myself, ‘Lord help them. I hope they know what they’re getting.’
“I can see how the president of the university gets there … they’ve never been in USA Today. But as a parent, I don’t know how you get there” in sending your kids to play under Bliss.
“There is no remorse. He thinks this happened to him. His last lapse in judgment ended at a funeral.”