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Baylor: Tapes provide new leads in cover-up

Bliss resigned as Baylor basketball coach on August 8.
Bliss resigned as Baylor basketball coach on August 8.

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Baylor University officials say audiotapes have provided new leads in the alleged cover-up concerning the basketball program. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.
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Audio recordings indicate former Baylor basketball head coach Dave Bliss asked players to mislead officials investigating Patrick Dennehy's death.
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WACO, Texas (CNN) -- Audio recordings that implicate Baylor's basketball coach in a cover-up of NCAA violations have given university investigators new leads, the head of the investigative team told CNN Monday.

The team had already discovered two cases in which someone paid for the tuition of two players, in violation of the college athletic rules, said lead investigator Kirk Watson.

The taped conversations, which were made public this weekend, reveal that former head coach Dave Bliss was aware of violations and tried to conceal them by trying to recruit his players and assistant coaches to lie to investigators.

The tapes reveal that Bliss wanted to portray player Patrick Dennehy as a drug dealer in order to explain his tuition payments. When the recordings were made between July 30 and Aug. 1, Dennehy's body had already been found after a six-week search that stretched from Texas to Maryland.

"Our whole thing right now, we can get out of this," Bliss says on one of the tapes, the contents of which Watson confirmed. "Reasonable doubt is there's nobody right now that can say that we paid Pat Dennehy. Because he's dead. So what we have to do is create the reasonable doubt."

The conversations were recorded by assistant coach Abar Rouse, who told Watson he made the tapes because he was uncomfortable with what Bliss was discussing with him and his players. The recordings have since been turned over to investigators, and portions have been published in two newspapers.

"They are very disappointing," Watson said. "They are very disturbing, and it's evidence of a real betrayal -- a betrayal of the university, and significantly also a betrayal of those young people."

Bliss is also heard in the tapes indicating his 30-year history in college athletics will play in his favor.

"I just spent two hours with our lawyer ... and that's what he told me: 'Just get me reasonable doubt,'" Bliss said. "He said this is the first time he's ever had an NCAA investigation with a dead person. So we don't have to have overwhelming evidence. All we gotta have is reasonable doubt, because I got 30 years in the business with no bad track record."

The scandal has outraged the Baptist university of 14,000 students and the wider community.

"I was shocked, outraged ... upset, you know, that anybody would do something like that to these boys," said Richard Guinn, whose son, R.T., is a senior on the basketball team. "I mean, it just flabbergasted me."

University President Robert Sloan also expressed anger and shock in a taped message over the weekend. Monday, Sloan held an online chat to answer questions about the scandal.

Patrick Dennehy had been missing about six weeks when his body was found July 25 in a field near the Baylor campus.
Patrick Dennehy had been missing about six weeks when his body was found July 25 in a field near the Baylor campus.

"All of us are stunned by these revelations of an attempted cover-up," Sloan wrote. "The good news is that the cover-up didn't work."

When Bliss resigned as head coach Aug. 8, he said he had just been made aware of the violations within the basketball program. Watson, however, said Bliss' scheme was well in motion before then.

Only one player ended up lying to investigators on Bliss' orders, Watson said.

CNN tried to reach Bliss several times over the weekend and on Monday, and left a note for him at his home, but the former coach has not responded.

Sloan said the investigative committee has found "absolutely nothing" to implicate former Athletic Director Tom Stanton, who also resigned Aug. 8 amid allegations of impropriety.

"Tom brought his resignation forward because, I think, he felt like as a matter of leadership and integrity that he should step down, since these things happened on his watch," Sloan said.

Sloan said he has no plans to resign, and that his continued tenure would be for the board to consider. He has already placed the basketball program on a two-year probation and offered release options to student athletes.

Dennehy's girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa, said Bliss deserves whatever punishment he receives.

"I kind of had an idea that there was a cover-up going on, so I'm not surprised to hear about that," she told CNN, "but just the nature of it and everything behind it and all that was concocted is very shocking."

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