Video tape shows Bliss told Baylor players to lie

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2003

WACO, Texas (AP) - Secretly recorded tapes and handwritten notes show former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss told his players to lie to investigators looking into program violations and say a slain player had paid his tuition by dealing drugs, two newspapers reported Saturday.

Bliss, who resigned Aug. 8 after the investigation into Patrick Dennehy's death, has admitted to being involved in paying players' tuition and acknowledged the attempted cover-up to both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News.

''The bizarre circumstances painted me into a corner and I chose the wrong way to react,'' Bliss told the Star-Telegram. Since resigning, he said, ''I have cooperated completely and will continue to do so because I know I have disappointed a lot of people.''

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Earlier this month, Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said an internal review committee found that two players received improper tuition payments and that Bliss admitted involvement.

The review committee found no evidence Dennehy was involved in drug dealing, committee chairman and law professor Bill Underwood said.

The tapes of Bliss speaking with players were secretly recorded by assistant coach Abar Rouse, the Star-Telegram reported. In them, Bliss is heard telling his players what to say to investigators.

''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,'' Bliss is heard saying on one tape according to the newspaper. ''Even if we had to kind of make some things look a little better than they are, that can save us.''

The tapes also apparently show that Bliss knew some players smoked marijuana and that Baylor coaches lied when they denied knowledge another player, Harvey Thomas, had threatened Dennehy before Dennehy's disappearance.

In one conversation, Bliss indicated Thomas would be willing to lie about Dennehy's activities because Baylor coaches had publicly said they knew nothing about Thomas' threats.

''Harvey will do anything,'' Bliss told Rouse. ''And the reason is because we did it for Harvey.''

Thomas has denied the threats or any involvement in Dennehy's death. A former teammate, Carlton Dotson, has been charged with murder.

Rouse said he made the secret recordings July 30-31 and Aug. 1 after Bliss told him he would lose his job if he didn't help carry out the deception.

In a statement Friday night, Sloan said he felt betrayed by Bliss' attempt ''to suppress and conceal the truth.''

Kirk Watson, counsel for the review committee, said members were stunned.

''These tapes are evidence of a desperate person trying to cover up his activities. It is shocking. But the good news is it failed,'' Watson said.

Underwood told the Morning News that the review committee also found that Bliss wrote scripts for players and coaches to review before talking with authorities. The scripts included fabrications alluding to drug use by Dennehy.

Dennehy's stepfather, Brian Brabazon, said he was outraged by Bliss' actions, ''especially trying to besmirch my son's name when he is dead.''

Dennehy, who disappeared in mid-June and was found in a field outside Waco on July 25, died from two gunshot wounds to the head, according to the autopsy report. His roommate and former teammate, Dotson, is charged with the slaying.

Dotson was arrested July 21 after calling 911, saying he needed help because he was hearing voices, authorities said. He told FBI agents in Maryland that he shot Dennehy after the player tried to shoot him, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. But after his arrest, Dotson told The Associated Press that he ''didn't confess to anything.''