|Friday, August 15
Updated: August 18, 8:19 PM ET
Report: Taped Bliss conversations show cover-up
WACO, Texas -- During an investigation into NCAA violations of improper financial aid, Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss told players to say slain teammate Patrick Dennehy sold drugs to pay his tuition, according to secretly recorded conversations obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"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," Bliss told one player in a conversation taped by assistant coach Abar Rouse, the newspaper reported Saturday. Rouse made tapes of conversations on July 30, 31 and Aug. 1, the newspaper said.
Transcripts of the tapes, which first surfaced online Friday night, also show that Bliss, who resigned last week, knew some players smoked marijuana and that Baylor coaches lied when they denied knowledge that Harvey Thomas, the junior-college recruit who arrived in Waco in late spring, threatened Dennehy.
Rouse, who joined the Baylor coaching staff June 1, made the tapes available to the Star-Telegram on Friday before he met with an NCAA enforcement official and Baylor's investigative committee, the group set up last month after allegations of wrongdoing relating to Dennehy's tuition and other issues.
Bliss told the Star-Telegram on Friday that he has 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. 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 said.
Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Bliss by phone were unsuccessful Friday night.
Allegations of NCAA violations surfaced after the 6-foot-10 Dennehy, 21, disappeared in mid-June. His body was found July 25 near a rock quarry a few miles from campus.
Dennehy died from two gunshot wounds to the head, according to an autopsy report. He had no alcohol, opiates, amphetamines or barbiturates in his system, but his body was too decomposed to test for marijuana, according to the autopsy report.
Carlton Dotson, who played basketball at Baylor last year, has been charged with Dennehy's murder and remains jailed in his home state of Maryland awaiting extradition to Texas.
Bliss met with the investigative committee for more than two hours Friday night at Baylor's law school.
In a statement Friday night, Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said he felt betrayed by Bliss' attempt "to suppress and conceal the truth."
Kirk Watson, counsel for the Baylor investigating committee, said committee members were stunned by what they heard.
"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 told the Star-Telegram.
The investigation has turned up no evidence that Dennehy was involved in drug dealing or had any access to drug money, Baylor law professor Bill Underwood, head of the internal review committee, told The Dallas Morning News for its Saturday editions.
Underwood said Bliss wrote scripts for assistant coaches and players to recite to try to convince investigators that Dennehy was a drug dealer.
"It's hard to imagine that one individual can do such damage to an institution, and it's terribly disappointing," Underwood told the Morning News.
Bliss resigned Aug. 8, saying he had been made aware of rules violations by the committee a day earlier. Sloan said the committee found that two players had received improper tuition payments and that Bliss admitted involvement.
Rouse told the Star-Telegram on Friday said 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.
Dennehy, who transferred last year from New Mexico, was not on scholarship. His father, Patrick Dennehy Sr., has said he knew the Baylor coaching staff arranged to pay his son's tuition.
On the tapes, 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 refute the allegations because he was dead.
In the taped conversations, two players acknowledged smoking marijuana with Dennehy, but neither said they saw him use or sell harder drugs.
Dennehy's stepfather, Brian Brabazon, was outraged when learning 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 told the Star-Telegram.
The tapes do not indicate whether the players followed Bliss' advice.
Speaking to Rouse alone in one of the taped conversations, Bliss indicated that Thomas, the junior-college recruit, would be willing to lie about Dennehy's activities.
Bliss said Thomas was loyal because Baylor coaches publicly said they knew nothing about the player threatening Dennehy 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."
"... 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 has denied threatening Dennehy or Dotson and denied involvement in Dennehy's death.