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Abar Rouse

September 8, 2003 Columns No Comments

Can it get any more Wacko in Waco?

by Dean Austin

Ever read the Phil Taylor column on si.com? You should; intelligent, provocative and never boring, Taylor is the epitome of today’s top sportswriter. He’s also flat out wrong when it comes to the case of Baylor whistleblower Abar Rouse.

Abar Rouse was a little known and recently hired Baylor basketball assistant until he taped his boss, Coach Dave Bliss, plotting to sully the name of deceased Baylor player Patrick Dennehy. Rouse went to the press with his tape. Frankly the contents were and are unbelievable. That a Head Coach would try and smear one of his players who had just been murdered reads like the bad plot from a very poor novel. Probably the most damning reaction and statement was from former New Mexico player J.J. Griego quoted in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. Griego played for Bliss during his time at New Mexico “You think he was in coaching for 30 years and only decided in the last two years to start cheating?” Griego said. “Don’t be so naive.”

Taylor argues in an article entitled “Baylor whistleblower Abar Rouse should be rewarded” that Rouse should be hired by one of the elite programs. That in effect turning in his boss was the principled thing to do.

Er . . . no. Now understand Bliss comes out with no credit in this sorry mess. And that’s an understatement. However if you are hired by someone in any walk of life the number one rule is you don’t burn them. Rouse alleges, according to Taylor, that when Bliss tried to enlist him in the smear scheme that his hesitance was followed by Bliss showing Rouse the assistant’s contract with the clause that states that the Head Coach has complete hiring and firing authority.

No one is suggesting, and certainly not I, that Rouse should have gone along with such a tawdry scheme. On the contrary, given such a situation the professional thing is to walk away. Yes that can be tough, however what Rouse did will probably make his position in the coaching ranks untenable.

Certainly given the perception of threat, it is not unreasonable to tape a conversation. There are I believe also Federal statutes that allow for a third party witness in any meeting where possible disciplinary action is an outcome. But the bottom line is you walk away.

Nor am I suggesting that Rouse should have lied. If questioned by the appropriate people, whether the Baylor AD, Baylor President or any off campus police agency Rouse should have told the truth.

What you don’t do is tape the conversation and then go to the press even if that is just before you meet with Baylor officials and the NCAA. I can’t conceive of any employer anywhere, never mind a college basketball coach, who would be comfortable with such an employee. Such an action is not to be celebrated or rewarded.

Although I do understand the stated emotion. It’s been a very rough off season not only in college basketball but all of college sports. In uncovering such a shoddy deception it is easy to praise Rouse. However the young man made, in my opinion, an error of judgment.

It will take an extraordinary Head Coach to give Rouse another chance. That being said life is about second chances, about acknowledging a mistake and learning from it. We should not praise Rouse for his actions. Nor should we condemn him to inglorious infamy. There is a balance to be found. Hopefully the young man will find another coaching opportunity.

Bliss on the other hand is a different story. I cannot conceive of another program offering him a head coaching job. As I said above, life is about second chances. Coaches accused of NCAA violations are usually brought back into the fold. In attempting to impugn the reputation of Patrick Dennehy after his death, Bliss may have come up with one sure way not to be granted a second chance.

Over at Texas Tech, Bobby Knight has stood by his friend and former assistant in public comments. That is what friends do. A friend is someone who stands by you regardless of the situation. Knight will get no criticism from me.

Not surprisingly the new Baylor coach, Scott Drew, cleaned house this past week retaining none of the assistants from the Bliss era. Rouse, via his lawyer, expressed disappointment but it can hardly have been a surprise. Drew is an inspired choice to resurrect the Baylor program. He did a good job last year at Valparaiso taking over from his father Homer and comes without any national baggage. With editorials already calling for the ouster of Baylor from the Big 12, Arkansas, TCU or Colorado State muted as possible replacements, Baylor faces a tough hurdle in just remaining relevant.

As does Abar Rouse.


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