Dave Bliss Disgraced

The 2003 Baylor basketball scandal profiled in Showtime’s Disgraced, which premiered Friday, has a ton of incredible elements, but the most remarkable may be what’s happened with then-head coach Dave Bliss and then-assistant coach Abar Rouse. Following the murder of Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson, Bliss was caught on tape by assistant coach Abar Rouse saying that they needed to create “reasonable doubt” that they weren’t paying non-scholarship player Dennehy and telling players to lie to the sheriff’s department and the NCAA and say Dennehy had been dealing drugs to finance his tuition.

Bliss eventually was forced to resign and hit with a 10-year show cause order by the NCAA, but still got prominent jobs (including one as athletic director and basketball coach at a prep school in Texas, where he was suspended less than a month into his first season, plus his current job as head coach at NAIA school Southwestern Christian. He surprisingly appeared in Disgraced, and was still largely unrepentant. Meanwhile, after blowing the whistle on Bliss, Rouse didn’t receive another full-time coaching offer, and has had to leave coaching behind. He now teaches general education in a Fort Worth prison. Mike Wise explored the contrast between the two in an excellent piece for The Undefeated:

Crazy, no? The man who did the right thing has committed his life to educating men who did the wrong thing. The man who didn’t get a second chance at his dream gig, the one good guy in the most sordid college sports story before Penn State in 2011, earns his living today by helping redeem others who are starving for one more shot.

His blackballing is not about race, Rouse said. It’s about a warped coaching culture that “takes care of its own.”

Because this is the sad truth 14 years after that awful summer: Dave Bliss, a white, 73-year-old basketball lifer who lied about a murdered player, has a coaching job in 2017. And Rouse, a 42-year-old black whistleblower, has yet to be offered a full-time college coaching job anywhere.

Wise goes on to discuss how 14 years later, Bliss is still throwing out the claim (seemingly proven false by his own words on the tape) that Dennehy was dealing drugs:

In Disgraced, Bliss tries hard to tell a story of personal accountability and redemption, including at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast, where he hawks his new book and salvation.

Yet, just when the viewer begins to believe in his repentance, Bliss, believing he is off-camera — the filmmakers ironically did what Rouse did to him years earlier — incredibly doubles down on his claim that Dennehy sold drugs.

When he adds, “What I did was, I got in the mud with the pigs. I paid a price and the pigs liked it,” and follows it up with a cackling laugh, the creep factor in the film spikes.

It seems like a particular shame that Bliss has continued to get opportunities after that, and that Rouse hasn’t. It’s not necessarily surprising, though; as Wise notes, coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Kelvin Sampson all bashed Rouse for secretly taping Bliss, despite the importance of that tape to proving what Bliss was up to. As Rouse told Wise, “At some point in everybody’s career, you’re going to have to face an ethical question. For me, I drew the line at a dead body.” And for that, it seems that he’s been cast out of the coaching fraternity, while the guy who tried to paint the dead player as a drug dealer to cover his own skin continues to survive and thrive. That’s pretty sad.

[The Undefeated]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.