In what is almost certain to be his final coaching job in major college basketball, Dave Bliss oversaw a Baylor program that was plunged into controversy in 2003 when one of its players killed a teammate, a horrific event which Bliss then allegedly tried to help cover up. After being away from the sport for seven years, Bliss took a position as head basketball coach, athletic director and dean of students at a tiny Texas private high school, Allen Academy.
According to the Associated Press, less than a year after that hiring, Bliss has birthed another massive scandal, in this case one which will keep Bliss away from the basketball sidelines for a full year and put Allen Academy on two years worth of probation.
"You've heard the cliche 'a can of worms'? This was a can of snakes," Edd Burleson, the director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, told the AP of the organization's investigation into Bliss' activity at Allen Academy.
That "can of snakes" was filled with multiple inappropriate recruiting techniques and benefits given to players Bliss brought to Allen Academy in the summer between his hiring (May 11, 2010) and the start of the 2010-11 school year. The AP reported two players who transferred in to Allen Academy to play basketball for Bliss paid only a tiny portion of the school's hefty $10,000 annual tuition, a policy deemed a breach of TAPPS regulations, which require that students not receive merit-based aid.
More egregiously, Bliss also forged the signature of the Allen Academy headmaster on a transfer form for another prospective student athlete who never actually enrolled at the school.
While TAPPS has refused to budge on Bliss' harsh penalty for the violations, Allen Academy officials have also steadfastly refused to criticize the former Baylor and New Mexico coach.
"I felt like he had the right combination of personality and human relations experience to go with his athletic background," Allen Academy headmaster John Rouse, whose name was forged on the transfer form, told the AP.
"Things a Division I basketball coach typically wouldn't do he does in a blink of an eye, because he wants Allen to be a good place for kids."
While Bliss insists that he is neither trying to absolve himself of responsibility from his prior missteps nor avoid any attention that comes his way from returning as a basketball head coach, other Texas coaches made it clear that they don't believe the message Bliss is sending out to the community.
"He's giving speeches at the Final Four about how he's seen the light, but he's still not doing what you're supposed to do as a Christian," said Kevin Cross, the coach at Dobie High School in the Houston suburb of Pasadena, where one of the transfers who received discounted tuition previously played.