Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tied for Tenth: Dave Bliss’s Greatest Crime

Bliss's actions were morally repugnant and ethically indefensible. A review of his laundry list of NCAA infractions still makes me sick. The fact that many of these violations occurred during the 2002-03 season is inexcusable. If you are going to bring unprecedented shame to your university and program please have the decency to win. Anyone with a shred of integrity would have insured at the very least a conference title and a solid showing in the tourney. Instead we ended up tied for 10th in a 12-team conference. That's like cheating on your SATs and getting a 600.

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"Cheaters Never Win" is at best an historical inaccuracy, at worst a lie. Cheaters often win and usually have a great time doing it. You merely have to remember our SWC brethren up I-35 to recall the glory years of SMU football in the early 80s. SMU won all the time. They finished one season ranked #2. Sure they received the death penalty for various players receiving cash payments in the neighborhood of $61,000, but they sure did win. Yes, eventually they lost a lot, basically the entire 20 years since, but that's beside the point. The point is those players cheated and won and had the bonus of being paid to do so. Don't even let me get started on Switzer, the Boz and Oklahoma.

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Switzer, SMU, and various other collegiate entities got it, Bliss never did. Bliss took "Cheaters Never Win" to heart. Which begs the question why cheat if you actually believe "Cheaters Never Win"? That's dumb. You should find another principle to live by like, "Hard Work Pays Off". When your malevolent deeds become public there should be drama associated with it like, "What will happen to their championship?", "What about the bowl money?", "What will happen to the Naismith Award?". Instead we are left with questions like, "You've got to be kidding?" and "I thought the Big 12 had 11 teams?".

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Bliss's inability to win removed all the theater of major NCAA sanctions. The compelling narrative of the rise, inevitable fall, and resurrection of a program was completely bypassed. Would we remember Icarus if upon hearing his father's instructions he set about flying too close to the sea and then safely fell into the water, only to be chastised by his know-it-all father for being an idiot? After Bliss resigned, players transferred, recruits were lost, games were removed from the schedule and we fell one place in the standings. That's unacceptable. If you are going to bring your program to the brink of the death penalty you have better been responsible for several years of intense joy. The NCAA may take your trophy but the dramatic moments leading up to sanctions will always be remember. Unfortunately, Bliss forgot to provide us with either.

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  • Great post. When attempting a Faustian bargain, make sure the world will be yours before signing your soul away. What does it profit a man if he ties for tenth in the Big12, but loses his soul? Nothing, obviously. At least Tark got a ring.

    By Blogger Red Andrews, at 11:29 PM  

  • Bliss no longer coaches the Dakota Wizards, I wonder where he is?

    By Blogger Judge Baylor, at 6:33 AM  

  • Probably in the 6th ring of hell . . . and falling fast.

    By Blogger Red Andrews, at 7:47 AM  

  • Gotta disagree with you here. Dave Bliss put together a team that included Lawrence Roberts, Kenny Taylor and John Lucas. Baylor would have seen a marked improvement in mens hoops had that team been able to take the floor for the 2003-04 season. But, alas, a psycho had to go and shoot his teammate, and it all unravelled. I doubt Bliss, Stanton, Sloan, ESPN or anyone was expecting that.

    I'm not defending Dave Bliss. And you certainly have to wonder about the kind of people he was recruiting for this kind of thing to happen. But I'm just making the point that the "cheaters" were poised to win (and we would have enjoyed the theater of NCAA violations) had their glory not been short-circuited by a homicide.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:42 AM  

  • In the Good Judge's defense, your "poised to win" argument is pure speculation. Along those lines, Kevin Steele was poised for a BCS bid. If only he hadn't been fired. We'll never know how good that team could have been. Part of Judge's argument is about the sequence of events - the great cheaters of the past got caught after their success. Bliss's error was having it come crashing down before. Granted, that shooting was truly an anomaly, even for corrupt programs, but the lack of Ws makes it seem all the more absurd.

    By Blogger Red Andrews, at 10:32 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Red Andrews, at 10:33 AM  

  • Those three players (LR, KT, JL) were all starters for Top 10 teams in 2003-04 (Mississippi St., Texas, Oklahoma St.). All three would have been playing for Baylor that year, had it not been for for the Dennehy shooting. Therefore I think it's a little more than "pure speculation" that the Bears were "poised to win". It's more of an educated guess. Your analogy regarding Kevin Steele doesn't really fit. There wasn't any talent like that on Kevin Steele's teams. He was a terrible recruiter. Besides, football and basketball differ in that a few good players can make a much larger impact in basketball.

    "Part of Judge's argument is about the sequence of events - the great cheaters of the past got caught after their success. Bliss's error was having it come crashing down before."

    This is true, but it was hardly Bliss' error that Dotson shot Dennehy. If Dotson went postal the following summer, then we may have had some success to trumpet along with our NCAA spanking.

    I don't mean to be overly contentious. To A&M with Dave Bliss for all I care. I'm enjoying the blog from here in Houston. Keep up the good work. I'll be having a beer or eight at Scruffy's this Saturday night and can't wait for the TCU game.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:18 PM  

  • Point taken. Thanks for the input and for reading our blog. We of the BearMeat editorial board try not to let facts undermine our grand interpretations. When we release our pre-season poll, you'll see what I'm talking about.


    By Blogger Red Andrews, at 1:47 PM  

  • Anon,

    Thanks for commenting. I agree with the sentiment. With two future NBA players and a guy who logged major time for a solid Texas team the B may have been on the cusp of a sanction worthy season. However, we will never know. I still believe the true drama was short-circuited. The narrative could most generously be described as unfulfilled potential. It was self-inflicted, so I assume it would be put into the suicide category. Certainly not at a Cobain or Hemingway level, because at their respective ages, they had a body of work that displayed the actualization of their potential. I wouldn’t even put them in a J.K. O’Toole category because he actually left work behind that could be discovered.
    Baylor never got to this point. Bliss left behind scribbles and a few paint samples. In the finer arts, Da Vinci may be able to get away with only finishing an arm and still have people raving about it. It sports that doesn’t cut it. In basketball the only thing that truly matters is what happens on the court. Yes, recruiting, coaching, and practice (AI excluded) matter and may indicate good things to come but that is all building up to the finished product. The beauty, the true art of basketball, is a when a group of individuals come together to produce a single coherent, unified piece. We will never know if the 2003-04 men’s team would have produced art or a cacophony of sounds.

    By Blogger Judge Baylor, at 2:11 PM  

  • Bear Meat will join you in spirit at Scruffy's, and by that I mean we will be there from opening to close.

    By Blogger Judge Baylor, at 9:12 PM  

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