Archive for Friday, September 12, 2003

Bliss belongs in jail, not on court

September 12, 2003

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— Dave Bliss should go to jail. And he should stay there for a while.

Jim Harrick should visit him. And hang around for a time just to get a feel for the place.

The criminals, cheaters and liars have become the face of college basketball. Every coach is now being branded because of the sins of his peers.

There are 327 Division I men's basketball coaches. Too many of them will do anything to win. Too many others are assumed to be Nick Nolte in "Blue Chips," because of what they do, not who they are.

Coaches find they must defend themselves against a perception. Which is why the National Association of Basketball Coaches called for a summit of Division I coaches Oct. 15 in Chicago.

That they recognize they have a problem is a nice place to start. Putting Bliss in jail would be even better. That really would send the proper message.

Bliss, the former Baylor coach, is every bad coaching stereotype come to life. This man, hiding behind religion and masquerading as a teacher, is a liar and a cheater, and perhaps a criminal. And he has no heart and no soul.

Last spring, Bliss took away the scholarship of Carlton Dotson, because, in the coach's opinion, the player he recruited could no longer help his team win.

As police investigated the disappearance of Baylor player Patrick Dennehy this summer, Bliss tried to distance his program from Dennehy. He lied about what he knew and when he knew it. He told Dennehy's parents he knew nothing about any threats toward their son, even as it became obvious he did.

Eventually, Dotson was charged with Dennehy's murder. Dennehy's body was found in a field outside Waco, Texas. And Bliss, who had been helping fund Dennehy's tuition against NCAA rules, tried to paint Dennehy as a drug dealer. Why? To demonstrate how Dennehy might have been capable of paying his tuition and to take the heat off himself. Baylor was over the 13-scholarship limit, and Bliss wanted more players.

Has there ever been a more callous man in the history of intercollegiate athletics? Won't authorities be interested in possible obstruction of justice charges? After all, his own players have said the coach encouraged them to lie to investigators. Shouldn't somebody want some answers from this man, who portrayed himself as virtuous and turned out to be a fraud?

Shouldn't some Division I coach hire Abar Rouse, the young former Baylor assistant who taped Bliss' shameful attempts at a coverup and blew the whistle on the coach who not so subtly threatened his job if he did not go along?

Bliss was turned down by a jail when he volunteered his services there late last month. If there is any justice, he might not be in position to volunteer soon.

Bliss is just the worst possible example of what has seemed like an epidemic. There was Harrick at Georgia, presiding over an academic scandal and pretending he knew nothing about it.

Baylor? When has that school ever won anything? And why would they even try? What are these people thinking?

And whatever has become of Iowa State hoops coach Larry Eustachy?

If you suggest much of this starts at the level of the college presidents, you would not be wrong. Presidents have pressure to raise funds.

They are trying to attract students. Winning sports teams, it has been proved, does both. Sadly, this mentality also breeds Dave Bliss.

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