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BAYLOR RISING
S.L. PRICE
February 27, 2012
A HEISMAN TROPHY? TWO NATIONALLY RANKED BASKETBALL TEAMS? A 40--0 STREAK ACROSS THREE MAJOR SPORTS? OFT-BEDEVILED BAYLOR IS ON A QUEST TO BECOME THE PREEMINENT BAPTIST UNIVERSITY, AND WINNING (THE RIGHT WAY) IS ESSENTIAL
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February 27, 2012

Baylor Rising

A HEISMAN TROPHY? TWO NATIONALLY RANKED BASKETBALL TEAMS? A 40--0 STREAK ACROSS THREE MAJOR SPORTS? OFT-BEDEVILED BAYLOR IS ON A QUEST TO BECOME THE PREEMINENT BAPTIST UNIVERSITY, AND WINNING (THE RIGHT WAY) IS ESSENTIAL

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Abar Rouse is not here. He had no Robert Griffin to speak up for him, and he was gone almost as soon as he arrived in 2003; in the Bliss aftermath his face was barely seen. He floats in Baylor's consciousness these days less as a ghost than three syllables growing faint. Abar Rouse? "I can't even tell you the last time I heard that name," McCaw says.

Yet for Rouse, once, sitting on the team bench with a packed Ferrell Center breathing down his collar would have been paradise. He's a Baylor alumnus, class of '97, and was sure of nothing then except that he wanted to coach. But he has been back to campus only once since the scandal. "I'm the black sheep," he says. "I can't go home, bro."

It was maybe a year ago. Rouse was driving past Waco on the interstate. His wife and 17-year-old daughter wondered what it was like, the place that has so dominated their lives by its absence. He turned off the exit, rolled down University Parks Drive, steered past the new buildings and taller, fuller trees. He didn't stop. Baylor wasn't his anymore. It hasn't been since he reached for the microcassette recorder tucked into his underwear and hit RECORD.

"Don't think it doesn't hurt to feel unwelcome at an institution that you took—that I take—so much pride in," Rouse says. "I think that the teams and the things that they've accomplished build people like ... me. That's what it is about."

What he means is that he, as much as Starr or any starry-eyed booster, buys the conceit that Baylor is different. Rouse transferred into Baylor as an undergrad in 1995, all but recruited to work as a student manager under the clean-house regime of new coach Harry Miller. Early on he forged a player's name on a routine check-in sheet, and Miller lit into him. "Rightfully so," Rouse says. After graduation he made a series of junior college stops. There were times he cut corners with recruits and rules. "I was taught by other coaches that this is the way you got things done," he says. But Miller's seed had burrowed in too: Baylor, his school, was different.

On June 1, 2003, Bliss hired him, at 27, as director of basketball operations. Within three weeks Dennehy had gone missing. By late July, Dotson was charged with his murder; Dennehy's body had been found; and Bliss, who had personally made Dennehy's tuition payments, was getting desperate. In the first of several meetings with his assistants and players, Bliss suggested telling NCAA investigators and the press that Dennehy had peddled marijuana and harder drugs to pay his school bills. "I honestly thought, This guy is going to come to his senses, this is crazy," Rouse says. But Bliss didn't waver.

The two left the office together, and when they got into the school-issued Tahoe, Rouse says he told Bliss, "We can't operate like this."

"Well," Bliss replied, "do you want to get fired?"

Rouse spent $25 on a tape recorder and managed, with a microphone wire snaking up his shirt, to click it on during meetings with Bliss and others from July 30 to Aug. 1. Rouse wasn't being wholly noble. He wanted to cover his tail, perhaps save his job. But he also taped because, he says, Dotson and Dennehy were every Baylor coach's responsibility. Dotson was facing a life sentence and the truth of their lives at Baylor had to be given to police and NCAA investigators.

The day after consoling Dennehy's parents at the funeral in San Jose, Bliss resigned, admitting to the improper payments. Rouse's tapes became public in mid-August, and a national wave of revulsion enveloped Baylor. Rouse was told to drop off his keys and soon realized he was blackballed—but not because of the program's filth. In October, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson condemned Rouse on ESPN. "If one of my assistants would tape every one of my conversations with me not knowing it," Krzyzewski said, "there's no way he would be on my staff."

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