Dave Bliss wrecked Baylor basketball 17 years ago, and still managed to find coaching jobs
Dave Bliss, the former Baylor men’s basketball coach, lives in a 1,282-square foot house near San Antonio and forever in infamy.
He remains at the center of one of the biggest scandals in college sports history, and memories tied to his misdeeds have resurfaced.
Baylor is set to play in the Final Four Saturday for the first time since 1950, the high point for a program that reached the lowest of lows in 2003.
That year, after one of his players murdered another, Bliss tried to frame the dead player as a drug dealer to cover up NCAA rules violations. Those violations included Bliss making tuition payments for players and unreported failed drug tests.
When his lies were uncovered, Bliss was effectively banished in 2005 from NCAA competition for 10 years. But basketball welcomed him back.
Dave Bliss shown Allen Academy in Bryan, Texas, where he coached from 2010 to 2015. (Photo: Erich Schlegel, USA TODAY Sports)
Since the scandal, Bliss has worked as a head coach in the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association for a season; at Southwestern Christian University, an NAIA school in Bethany, Oklahoma for two seasons; and at three high schools for a combined eight seasons.
Bliss, 77, was coaching high school basketball in Las Vegas until the coronavirus pandemic hit a year ago. He did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
“Obviously people have their perspective and opinions of Dave," said Pat Baker, Director of Admissions at Allen Academy, a private school in Bryan, Texas where Bliss coached from 2010 to 2015. "But Allen Academy was truly a place where he was loved by all.
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"I remember his farewell pep rally, teachers were crying, kids were crying. He was surrounded by people that valued him and by people that knew his story, knew his background."
There has been plenty on-court success for Bliss, who since his forced resignation at Baylor in 2003 has won six high school state championships and fell one victory shy of the National Christian College Athletic Association Division I championship in 2016.
There also have been allegations of rules violations.
In 2010, six months after Allen Academy hired Bliss, he was under fire again. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) suspended him for one year after ruling Bliss improperly induced student-athletes as head basketball coach at Allen Academy.
Dave Bliss collects his notes after announcing his resignation as Baylor coach on Aug. 8, 2003. (Photo: Rod Aydelotte, Associated Press)
The school denied the allegations and then changed leagues, leaving TAPPS for the Texas Christian Athletic League, and Bliss began stacking up the state championship trophies.
“A lot of that had to do with some mismanagement of paperwork,’’ said Baker, the admissions director at Allen Academy, of the alleged rules violations. “And maybe some frustration from the TAPPS board and leadership as to how Dave came to campus and how we came to be within their league and organization.’’
In 2019, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that American Prep Academy, where Bliss was then athletic director and head basketball coach, forfeited two middle school games for using ineligible players that season.
School administrators did not respond to several messages seeking comment.
“I don’t know why people keep getting sucked in and they don’t believe who this person is,’’ said Abar Rouse, a former assistant coach who worked under Bliss at Baylor and helped implicate Bliss by secretly recording their conversations. “It’s the most terrible thing to me that somebody would even consider putting somebody like him in a position of leadership of young men.’’
Adrian Youngblood said he had reservations in 2017 when Bliss asked him to join the coaching staff at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Las Vegas after Bliss got the head coaching job. Youngblood’s children attended the school.
“I knew of Dave Bliss and I know the stories,’’ Youngblood said, “so I grilled him.’’
Youngblood, a project manager and volunteer basketball coach, ended up coaching alongside Bliss from 2017 to 2020. Their stint included a move to American Prep Academy, a charter school in Las Vegas where Bliss led the team to the state charter school championship in 2019.
“A very personable guy, very open, very humble,’’ Youngblood said. “I got questions from a close network of friends and coaches about how can I work for him.
“He did nothing but try to help these kids here in Las Vegas, and I have nothing but good things to say about the man.’’
Last year Bliss was in his third season at American Prep Academy when the school shut down its campus because of the pandemic. He and his wife moved to the San Antonio area to be closer to their daughter and two of their grandchildren, according to Youngblood.
The plan was for Bliss to open a high school in the San Antonio area and oversee the basketball program, but the project lost momentum because of pandemic, Youngblood said.
Bliss has been following the NCAA Tournament but not coaching, according to Youngblood, who said he spoke to Bliss earlier this week.
“Just enjoying being a Grandpa,’’ Youngblood said of Bliss.
That image will not create warm feelings for everyone. Certainly not for Brian Brabazon, stepfather of Patrick Dennehy, the Baylor player that Bliss tried to frame as a drug dealer after he was murdered.
“He cried at Patrick’s funeral,’’ Brabazon said of Bliss. “He just could have been so much more of a man."
Brabazon said he used to write to schools in attempt to persuade them to fire Bliss.
But Brabazon stopped as it became clear basketball would not turn its back on Bliss, who before the scandal won more than 500 games in 28 years during stops at Oklahoma, SMU, New Mexico and Baylor.
His teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament 10 times, and his post-scandal coaching career included the following:
► In 2005, Bliss was hired to coach the Dakota Wizards of the CBA — his first coaching job since resigning at Baylor. He lasted just one season in Bismarck, North Dakoka, with the Wizards finishing the 2005-06 season with a record of 19-29.
► A four-year drought without a head coaching job ended in 2010 when Bliss was hired at Allen Academy.
► In 2015, Bliss jumped back into the college ranks when he accepted the head coaching job at Southwestern Christian University. He was 40-28 in two seasons and resigned after the 2016-17 season following an airing of “Disgraced,’’ a Showtime documentary about the Baylor scandal.
► Bliss moved to Las Vegas in 2017 and returned to high school basketball, with his final stop at American Prep Academy.
Now he is in San Antonio, about a three-hour drive from Baylor’s campus, in Waco, Texas, site of the scandal that lingers as the Baylor men’s basketball team prepares for the Final Four.
Rouse, the former Baylor assistant who helped take down Bliss, said, “Let’s not let that guy overshadow that."
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