Tapes, notes reveal Baylor coach told players to lie about Dennehy

Updated: August 16, 2003, 9:40 PM ET

WACO, Texas -- Former Baylor University basketball coach Dave Bliss tried to cover up allegations of NCAA violations by telling assistant coaches and players to lie to investigators and say a slain player had been dealing drugs to pay for school, secretly recorded audiotapes reveal.

The recordings of Bliss were made by an assistant coach, who turned them over to Baylor and NCAA investigators on Friday.

"The tapes reveal a desperate man trying to figure out how to cover himself and to cover up" NCAA violations, said Kirk Watson, counsel for Baylor's in-house investigations committee.

Copies of the tapes were obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which published transcripts Saturday.

Baylor Board of Regents Chairman Drayton McLane Jr., said the university was "crushed" by Bliss's actions and said the investigation will continue.

"Is this the end of stunning revelations? I hope so. I don't know," McLane said. "We will get the answers, and we won't rest until we do."

Bliss talked to two or three players about the scheme, although only one took the phony story to investigators and he has since recanted. Watson would not identify the player.

Although players are not under oath when talking to investigators, the NCAA code of ethics requires athletes to tell the truth, Watson said. He said it would be premature to discuss whether the player would be disciplined by Baylor.

Neither Bliss nor any of his assistant coaches actually used the fake story with investigators, Watson said.

The review committee found no evidence Patrick Dennehy was involved in drug dealing. Dennehy's body was found in a field outside Waco on July 25, died from two gunshot wounds to the head.

An autopsy found no alcohol, opiates, amphetamines or barbiturates in his system, but his body was too decomposed to test for marijuana.

Watson said the tapes would be turned over to prosecutors to determine whether Bliss's cover-up attempt could bring criminal charges.

Neither Bliss nor assistant coach Abar Rouse, who made the tapes, could be reached for comment Saturday. An AP reporter went to Bliss's home where no one answered the door and the blinds were drawn. Attempts to reach Baylor players and other assistant coaches Saturday were unsuccessful.

Bliss, however, acknowledged the cover up to the Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News in Saturday's editions.

"The bizarre circumstances painted me into a corner and I chose the wrong way to react," he said. "I have cooperated completely and will continue to do so because I have disappointed a lot of people."

Bliss, a former New Mexico coach, was among 10 Baylor officials to attend Dennehy's memorial service on Aug. 7, the day before he resigned as coach. Dennehy had played for Bliss at New Mexico and had followed the coach to Baylor.

"I keep going back to him (Bliss) shaking my hand and me thanking him for coming (to the memorial service)," Dennehy's stepfather, Brian Brabazon, said in a telephone interview Saturday after learning of the tapes. "Had I had even an inkling of this, I would have grabbed his hand and his throat and thrown him against the wall and beat him."

Brabazon said the family would seek legal action against Baylor, although he had not yet discussed it with an attorney.

"I'm going to find somebody that's going to be able to stand up to the world's biggest Baptist college," he said.

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

The tapes, however, reveal an attempt to divert investigators away from the improper payments.

"What we've got to create here is drugs," Bliss is heard saying on one tape. "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 ... that can save us."

He also called himself a victim of circumstance.

"It's not like we created his situation," Bliss said. "We're the victims. If you read the papers ... I'm the bad guy."

Bliss suggested that players tell investigators they saw Dennehy with a "tray" containing a variety of drugs and with a "roll" of $100 bills.

Bliss said Dennehy couldn't deny the allegations because he was dead.

"When he said Patrick couldn't refute that, he forgot something: Patrick's other half -- me. I'm still here and I will speak for him. I will defend him with everything that I have," Dennehy's girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa, said Saturday.

Bill Underwood, a member of the Baylor internal committee, told the Morning News that the panel 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.

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 Dennehy's murder. Dotson remains jailed in his home state of Maryland awaiting extradition.

Rouse, who joined Baylor on June 1, 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.

Dotson 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."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index