One night before UNC, Oregon, Gonzaga and South Carolina take the court for Final Four play in the NCAA Tournament, Showtime airs “Disgraced,” a documentary recounting what many consider the greatest college basketball scandal ever: the murder of Baylor hoops star Patrick Dennehy at the hands of his teammate Carlton Dotson, and the subsequent attempted coverup of serious NCAA violations by the team’s head coach, Dave Bliss.
An interview with Bliss opens the film, the coach seemingly sincere in describing his lessons learned from the incident. Yes, well. We’ll see.
In fact, Bliss comes off as bad as — if not worse than — the actual murderer in this account (and incidentally, not having learned a thing). He’s an authority figure responsible for the welfare of the young men who play for him, blatantly breaking rules and then when caught, ready to throw anyone – even a murdered kid – under the bus to save his reputation and job.
And speaking of lessons learned, the idea that such a thing is even possible is harder to swallow considering the rape allegations outlined in a recent lawsuit against the Baylor football team (the suit alleges that 52 rapes occurred over a four year span within the program, with 31 players involved).
It’s a great documentary, worth watching even for those who don’t give a whit about sports. The interviews with Dennehy’s family members and friends are moving, but the most compelling interview has to be with former Baylor assistant coach Abar Rouse, who wore a wire to capture evidence of Bliss’ deviousness. There’s no way Bliss would have had to take responsibility for what he did at Baylor had it not been for those tapes, which makes Rouse a hero in my book. Interestingly enough, the documentary includes a clip from ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program, which aired during the time of the scandal, showing Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim both criticizing Rouse for being disloyal.
Lessons learned? Maybe one day.
▪ “Disgraced” debuts at 9 p.m. Friday on Showtime.
“Disgraced” debuts at 9 p.m. Friday on Showtime.