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Bliss, a disgraced former Baylor coach, apologizes

April 05, 2008|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- Dave Bliss, the coach who was disgraced in the aftermath of the 2003 murder of a Baylor player by a former teammate, apologized Friday at the Final Four, telling an audience of coaches his faith helped him survive his "humiliation and remorse" for what he did.

"If I was sitting out there, I would say, how can someone who did some of the things I did ever show up at the Final Four, much less speak at it," Bliss said, speaking at a function for Athletes in Action, a Christian sports ministry.

"When you get past denial for a sin, you can cope with just about anything."

Bliss said pride and pressure led him to commit NCAA violations by making illegal payments, then try to cover them up after Carlton Dotson murdered Patrick Dennehy by urging others to portray the murder victim as a drug-dealer.

"The aspect of a cover-up is in so many sins. The aspect of my cover-up was so disgusting," said Bliss, who spoke with a Bible in his lap and cried and halted at points.

Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar, one of the coaches in the audience, said he believed Bliss was sincere. "I think whenever we face up to our mistakes and we are sincerely sorry, you've got to accept that," Romar said.

Carl Foster, who runs an Oakland AAU program, approached Bliss afterward. "I knew Patrick Dennehy," he told Bliss, then embraced him.

"I could feel the contrition in his heart for what he did," Foster said.

Bliss, now the cofounder of an Internet-based training firm in Colorado, said he knew the rules.

"The fact is, I was desensitized by that time," he said. "Any time you get involved in compromise, the devil can win.

"There is a lot of gray area in coaching. Gray area is when you don't sleep as well. It's not illegal, but maybe it's not ethical. The ambition and prideful nature that I had, I put myself in position to jeopardize so many people."

Dotson underwent mental evaluations before pleading guilty to killing Dennehy. He is serving a 35-year sentence. After the scandal, Bliss said he felt ostracized by many.

"It was as if I was a leper, and I earned every bit of it," he said.

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robyn.norwood@latimes.com

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