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Interview With Rob Becker

Aired August 18, 2003 - 20:38   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The case surrounding the killing of Patrick Dennehy took another seamy turn over the weekend. Secretly recorded tapes implicate former Baylor head coach Dave Bliss in a cover-up scheme. He apparently wanted his coaches and players to lie to investigators and say Dennehy was a drug dealer.

DAVE BLISS, FORMER HEAD COACH, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL: You tell the story, tell your own stories, and then at the end of it, just add the fact that, you know, in your (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these guys would call, you know, and knock on the door and come over and go in the back room and do all that stuff.


ZAHN: The tapes may indicate Bliss thought the drug story would keep investigators from digging into allegations that he allegedly paid for Dennehy's tuition, an NCAA violation.

I'm joined now by sports commentator and litigator Rob Becker. Is this a case you want to try if it ends up being true?

ROB BECKER, SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, in terms of a crime it is probably going to be hard to show that he committed a crime. For him to have committed a crime, he would have had to tell the players to lie to the police or the sheriff. In other words, he would have had to say, you guys say that Dennehy was a drug dealer when you talk to the cops. So far, the transcripts show that he told them to tell collegiate authorities that Dennehy was a drug dealer. And he told them to tell the police that they had used drugs with Dennehy, which happened to be a true statement. But it's not yet clear that he told the players to tell the police that Dennehy was a drug dealer. If he did that, and if they went ahead and told the story to the police, then he's committed a crime that would get him 180 days in jail.

ZAHN: All right, let's talk about what else we know he said on tape. Here he is a coach well regarded for his winning record. I'm going to put up on the screen now something else now that has just been gleaned from these audiotapes. And if you listen to it, here is what we said. "We can get out of this. Reasonable doubt is there's nobody right now that can say that we paid Pat Dennehy. Because he's dead. What we've got to do is create drugs here." What is the suggestion here? What is he trying to cover up? BECKER: He's trying to cover up his own pains, because the problem is, Dennehy was not on a scholarship. The scholarship was taken away for strategic reasons.

ZAHN: What does that mean, strategic reasons?

BECKER: He was a transfer. Here's a strategic reason. He transferred. Since he transferred, he couldn't play that year. There is a limit on the number of scholarships. So they wanted the scholarships to be used on players who were playing, rather than someone like Dennehy who had to sit out. So they said, Patrick, give up your scholarship. Then the problem is, how does he pay his tuition? He doesn't have enough money.

Well, the answer, the true answer was that Bliss paid it. But he had to come up with an explanation that the authorities could believe about how is it that Dennehy was able to pay his tuition. Answer, according to Bliss' fantasies, he was dealing drugs. That was his scheme. And it didn't work. But part of the reason it didn't work is he was so bad, that when he got asked an assistant coach to go along with this, the assistant coach said, I'm not going to do that. He said, well, OK, you want to -- you want me to fire you? So the assistant coach then taped everything, and those tapes are what have come to light now.

ZAHN: I guess what a lot of people are wondering tonight, we have seen a lot of talented players get moved from school to school. How prevalent is it to hide up -- or hide these kinds of scenarios where someone is getting money off the books?

BECKER: I think it goes on at a lot of schools. There is money going to athletes. Maybe not their whole tuition, maybe it's just on the side for little expenses, maybe sometimes the booster pays more. But I think it's certainly unusual for a coach to just up and pay the tuition and keep that a secret. And that's before you can get up to the idea of lying about his background.

ZAHN: Where do you see this story going from here, as far as coach Bliss is concerned?

BECKER: He's done.

ZAHN: Is that your understanding that -- so he's done?

BECKER: Well, he's out of there.

ZAHN: Is it your understanding that he's asked these players to lie directly to police?

BECKER: So far, when I say...

ZAHN: Muddy up the story indirectly to police.

BECKER: Right. It could be we could find further transcripts, or not everyone has to be tapes. It could be something we hear testimony about that he did tell them to lie to the police. But as of what we know at this moment, we don't know that yet.

But his career is done. I mean, this is a guy who is just going to live in shame. And if they can find a way to prosecute him, I'm sure they will, because I think everyone is outraged. And I think they'd like to give him a lot more than 180 days in prison, but that's the most that they can give him if he's committed this crime.

ZAHN: One can only imagine how the Dennehy family is feeling right now.

BECKER: The Dennehy family actually has been quite clear. The stepfather has said he wished he could just throw Bliss against the wall, because Bliss came to the funeral before the stepfather found out about this, and the stepfather said it is going to be his mission in life to make sure that not only does Dave Bliss never coach again, but that he never works at a Taco Bell again.

ZAHN: Wow, Rob Becker, always good to see you.

BECKER: Good to see you.

ZAHN: Thanks for dropping by.


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