Pubdate: Sun, 17 Aug 2003
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Waco-Tribune Herald
Authors: Mike Copeland, Mike Anderson


One day after Baylor University, Waco and the Big 12 conference were rocked 
by revelations of a cover-up scheme involving a dead basketball player, 
former coach Dave Bliss' reputation appeared to be hanging by a thin piece 
of cassette tape.

Baylor officials scrambled to make statements, friends and family members 
of the dead ballplayer fumed aloud, and attorneys and law enforcement 
officials sought to justify their investigations in the midst of mounting 

As scandal dominated the world's largest Baptist university, Jim Pate, a 
prominent member of the Golden Bears, a group often critical of President 
Robert B. Sloan Jr.'s administration, appealed to the state attorney 
general to replace Sloan and the regents.

"The attorney general should immediately appoint a five-person oversight 
committee to assume the management of Baylor," Baylor alumnus Jim Pate 
wrote. "The recommendations made to the attorney general by this committee 
will serve as counsel for Baylor in the future.

"This unprecedented action will be the only salvation of Baylor," Pate said.

Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said the weekend salvo from Pate -- a 
frequent critic of Sloan and his tenure -- came as no surprise.

Confusion reigned in the case of Baylor's beleaguered basketball program 
before Friday night when secretly recorded tapes appeared to reveal Coach 
Bliss orchestrating a cover-up campaign to protect himself, his coaching 
staff and Baylor's basketball program.

Tapes recorded secretly by newly hired assistant coach Abar Rouse suggest 
Bliss tried to enlist at least three ballplayers in a scheme to convince 
investigators that slain Baylor ballplayer Patrick Dennehy paid his tuition 
by dealing drugs.

The tapes also reveal Bliss was aware of marijuana use on the Baylor team 
and that he was aware of threats allegedly made against Dennehy, despite 
public statements in which Bliss denied any knowledge of drug use or 
threats involving his team.

In the recorded conversations, Bliss also sought to convince ballplayers 
that law enforcement officials and top Baylor officials were solidly behind 
efforts to pin blame for NCAA violations involving money payments on 
Dennehy and drug-dealing.

"Yesterday's revelations of a taped meeting involving Dave Bliss are a 
sobering and disturbing development in an already tragic story," Baylor 
President Sloan said in a statement issued Saturday afternoon.

"Dave Bliss' attempts to conceal from investigators the truth about 
improprieties in our men's basketball program represent a profound betrayal 
of the trust that Baylor University and our players placed in him. I am 
outraged not only by his own deception but his efforts to enlist players 
and assistant coaches in this scheme."

Bliss did not return phone calls to the Tribune-Herald.

Waco Police Chief Alberto Melis said his department's criminal 
investigation into Dennehy's death was never focused on Dennehy and drugs 
and away from other aspects to assist Bliss or anyone else at Baylor.

"As far as us slanting in any way, shape or form an investigation to assist 
Coach Bliss or Baylor in any way, shape or form, absolutely not," Melis 
said. "We were investigating a homicide."

He called the idea that police would slant evidence to help Baylor's 
basketball program "absurd."

David Guinn, a member of Baylor's investigative committee, expressed 
astonishment at Bliss' notion that the committee -- made up of three Baylor 
law professors as well as former Austin mayor Kirk Watson -- would buckle 
under any scheme mounted by Bliss.

"I cannot comprehend him (Bliss) thinking we would be anything but fair and 
objective," Guinn said. "We have tried to convey that to all the people 
we've interviewed. We've tried to enter this investigation without any 
preconceived idea of who's guilty or not guilty. I can't say it with any 
more candor than that."

Guinn said he believes Bliss mentioned the backing of the Baylor hierarchy 
- -- including Guinn's fellow committee member, Bill Underwood -- as a 
manipulative "ruse" to get ballplayers to cooperate with his cover-up scheme.

"We've certainly made no conveyance to him that would indicate we're 
anything other than an impartial tribunal trying to get to the bottom of 
things," he said. "Bill Underwood has been as fair and judicious as any 
supreme court justice could be, by way of analogy."

Asked if the committee is sharing information with Dr. Sloan as it proceeds 
with the investigation, Guinn said: "We have indeed kept Dr. Sloan informed 
of findings along the way, and we will continue to do so."

Asked whether that information is being shared with regents, Guinn said Dr. 
Sloan would need to address that.

Underwood, who said the situation was further fractured when he was 
misquoted by the Dallas Morning News while summarizing Bliss' taped 
statements, said Bliss was quizzed about his comments to players Friday.

"He (Bliss) was asked about that last night when he talked to NCAA 
investigators," Underwood told the Tribune-Herald . "He said he meant we 
all believed him -- in other words, that he hadn't paid the tuition."

While praising the investigative work of his fellow committee members, 
Watson cautioned against those who might take Bliss at his word in the tapes.

"If you listen to these tapes, what I think we're hearing is an effort to 
tell these players to embellish their stories," Watson said. "It's using 
people's names who are in a position of authority -- that they are on your 
side, so it's OK to do that. It's an effort to make (the ballplayers) 
comfortable to pull them into the cover-up. It's a common practice of those 
who try to cover up."

This weekend's revelations come amid Baylor's darkest summer. It began with 
Dennehy's disappearance in mid-June, allegations that his tuition and 
living expenses were being funded by coaches even though Dennehy was not on 
scholarship, and the discovery of Dennehy's body on July 25.

Former teammate Carlton Dotson has been charged with shooting Dennehy to death.

Meanwhile, until his resignation a week ago, Bliss continued to deny that 
any of his ballplayers were involved in drug usage or that any illegal 
payments were made to his student-athletes.

As the sun set on Baylor Saturday evening, many students were still 
catching up on the latest bombshell to hit the university. Some said they 
were surprised at the secret tapes and Bliss' scheme because he was 
respected around campus.

Many said the coach should face consequences.

"It's sad that there's an ethical compromise there, especially tainting a 
dead person's name," graduate student Daniel Haynes said. "I mean, it's bad 
enough you were trying to make a cover-up for why the basketball players 
are being paid, but to taint a dead person's image is, I think, unfair."

Liz Eddy, a sophomore, said she'd heard positive things about Bliss while 
at Baylor and was surprised by the tapes.

"I just really thought that Coach Bliss was a good guy," Eddy said. "That 
just really shocks me. I can't believe it on top of everything that's 

Richard Guinn, father of Baylor ballplayer R.T. Guinn, said their faith in 
Bliss had been shaken.

"We're all highly upset, shocked and disappointed with Coach Bliss if 
that's what happened," Guinn said. "From what I knew of him, it's out of 

Meanwhile, Brian Brabazon, of Carson City, Nev., stepfather of the slain 
ballplayer, added anger to his astonishment.

"My son is dead and (Bliss is) saying this about him?" Brabazon said. "My 
son was clean. He didn't have any drugs in his body. What do you mean 
saying he was paying for college by selling drugs?

"Was he some sort of drug lord?" Brabazon said. "He'd have to be to make 
enough to pay to go to that school. (Bliss) is just dragging my son's name 
through the mud for his own gain."

Baylor Board of Regents Chairman Drayton McLane Jr. conceded in a statement 
Saturday he didn't quite know what to expect next in the investigation.

"In fact, I have to tell you that early Friday afternoon Dr. Sloan and I 
spoke and we said this Friday certainly seemed to be a better day than last 
Friday," McLane said. "That was before we learned about these new developments.

"Is this the end of stunning revelations?" he said. "I hope so. I don't know."

Miguel Liscano and Terri Jo Ryan contributed to this story.
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