Valorie and Brian Brabazon, the mother and stepfather of slain Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy, sat down on Sunday to ponder a question they have been considering in the days since Carlton Dotson, Patrick's former teammate, was charged with killing their son ( Dotson has not yet entered a plea): Should they sue the school and/or former coach Dave Bliss for helping to create the conditions that may have led to the murder?
Until last weekend the Brabazons were uncertain. But as Brian Brabazon told SI, their feelings changed after learning of audiotapes on which Bliss admits he knew about threats made against Dennehy, which friends say was the reason he and Dotson purchased guns. Brabazon believes that had Bliss reported the threats, Dennehy might still be alive. "I consider [Bliss] just as responsible for Patrick's death as [the murderer] was," says Brabazon.
On the tapes, secretly recorded by assistant coach Abar Rouse and obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bliss also attempts to cover up improper payments to Dennehy, urging players to tell investigators that Dennehy got tuition money from dealing drugs. "I think the thing we want to do—and you think about this—if there's a way we can create the perception that Pat may have been a dealer," Bliss told one player. "Even if we had to kind of make some things look a little better than they are, that can save us." Bliss noted that Dennehy couldn't refute the story "because he's dead."
Bliss's transgressions have already cost him his reported $600,000-a-year job (he resigned on Aug. 8), and his attempts to get his players to lie will probably keep him from ever coaching again. But the scrutiny of his actions is just starting. Baylor says it will turn over the tapes to the McLennan County ( Texas) district attorney's office, which will review them for possible criminal violations. Also, the Brabazons now seem intent on pursuing a civil suit against Bliss (who could not be reached for comment) and, most likely, Baylor. ( President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said he felt "outraged" by Bliss and that Baylor would continue to investigate his actions.)
"I want to see Baylor as a whole suffering as much as Patrick's mom, sister and I are," Brabazon, who is speaking to lawyers, told SI. Brabazon calls Bliss "callous and cold-hearted," recalling how Bliss greeted him at Dennehy's Aug. 7 memorial service. "He shook my hand while concocting these stories. I'll make sure he doesn't get a job at Taco Bell."