Dave Bliss, the former Baylor basketball coach who attempted to hide his cheating from the NCAA by labeling a recently murdered player a drug dealer, has a new job. He is the new high school basketball coach and athletic director at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Las Vegas. This move comes just months after Bliss resigned from Southwestern Christian University, a NAIA school in Oklahoma.
Bliss is a disgusting man who should never be allowed to work again. He’s unrepentant about his actions. He continued to deny wrongdoing this past year in the Showtime documentary Disgraced. He also continued sliming the reputation of the young man who was killed.
Calvary Chapel is a private parochial school. The school’s vision statement declares that its students are taught to practice “Biblical values and morality.” The school's Discipleship page states that it “stress[es] the authority, authenticity, and reliability of God’s Word, the Bible, as absolute truth and the window through which to view all knowledge and reality. In accordance with this, we handpick curriculum that is rooted in a biblical worldview and upholds the final authority of Scripture.”
It’s difficult to see how hiring a known liar and cheater — a man who was forced to serve a ten-year NCAA show cause penalty (to hire Bliss, a college needed to show good cause as to why Bliss was a good choice) as a result of his Baylor scandals — fits within a biblical worldview that upholds the final authority of Scripture.
But when questioned by reporters last week, a school spokeswoman stood by the hiring. “There’s a great documentary he’s put out there on his testimony, and that is the one thing everybody needs to see right now,” the spokesperson said. “That he’s a man of Christ.”
She did not refer to the film by name, but if she was referencing Disgraced, then it’s obvious she did not really pay attention to it. The testimony of Bliss in that documentary reveals a vain man who feels that he, not the dead man, was the victim of that murder at Baylor. And it’s hard to understand how that could qualify Bliss as a man of Christ.
Bliss’s previous employer, Southwestern Christian University, claims to follow a Pentecostal blueprint for Christian living, stressing scholarship, spirit and service. Students must live by a lifestyle principle that places God’s word at the center of life, and the handbook forbids using profanity, drugs, alcohol and tobacco, as well as engaging in sex or LGBT behavior.
Yet knowing of Bliss’s behavior at Baylor — lying about his dead player being a drug dealer, violating NCAA rules by paying an athlete’s tuition and encouraging his staff to lie to investigators — Southwestern Christian hired him. For some reason, hiring a guy who seems to be the exact opposite of the Christian message the school sent was deemed to be okay.
Bliss didn’t even bring a clean record to Baylor, as he was known to have violated recruiting rules while coaching at Southern Methodist University. But the Baptist Baylor, then supposedly a paragon of Christian values, saw fit to overlook Bliss’s record in hopes of winning basketball games.
Baylor didn’t learn its lesson with Bliss. The school became so focused on winning football games that it allowed head coach Art Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw and president Ken Starr to hide a sexual assault scandal involving the football program for many, many years — according to an independent report the school itself commissioned. Along with covering up the scandal, Baylor sought, in many cases, to blame the victims. The school only acted after several years of adverse publicity.
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Briles, his family and his supporters have all followed the Dave Bliss handbook. Briles, not the women who were assaulted, is the victim. Starr, who led the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, continues to be seen as a paragon of morality. McCaw, meanwhile, is still involved in college athletics as the athletic director at Liberty University in Virginia.
Liberty is, of course, a private Christian university founded in the 1970s by Jerry Falwell, who was also the driving force behind the Moral Majority. Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., took over as the school's chancellor and president upon his father’s death. And Liberty, like Baylor and Southwestern Christian and Calgary Chapel, appears to have abandoned its Christian principles in pursuit of success in sports, hoping that McCaw accomplishes at Liberty what he did at Baylor.
If Bliss, Briles and McCaw are repentant for their actions, they have yet to show it publicly. Perhaps that is why it is troubling that supposedly Christian institutions are so willing to shove aside their belief systems in pursuit of athletic excellence. Shouldn’t something more be expected — something besides just winning trumping all else?
At Cavalry Chapel Christian, with Bliss on the court, this appears not to be the case.