The return of Dave Bliss to college coaching shouldn't matter too much

The news broke late Monday afternoon -- just a few hours before the national championship game. So the fact that an NAIA school in Oklahoma planned to hire Dave Bliss, the disgraced former Baylor coach, mostly stayed off of the so-called national radar because the world of college basketball was preoccupied with Duke-Wisconsin.

But now the season is over. And there are fewer distractions.

So I had time Wednesday to settle in and watch Southwestern Christian University formally introduce Bliss as its new coach, and my plan was to subsequently destroy the school for hiring the person at the center of the ugliest scandal in NCAA history.

What in the world is Southwestern Christian University doing?

I was going to ask that question, then explain, for those who might've forgotten, exactly what Bliss did back in 2003 to wreck the Baylor program and his own career. Then I was going to wonder, with the written word, how an institution of higher learning could possibly hire a person who committed major rules violations before encouraging players, and threatening colleagues, to paint a murder victim (Patrick Dennehy) as a drug-dealer so the world would never know he paid Dennehy's tuition in violation of NCAA bylaws.

If Dennehy were a drug-dealer, you see, then he'd have the money to pay tuition.

That was the root of Bliss' dumb and disgusting plan.

It all fell apart quickly, of course. Bliss was forced to resign, and the NCAA eventually hit him with a 10-year show-cause penalty that won't expire until later this year. He's the face of the modern-day evil basketball coach, the worst of the worst. So ...

What in the world is Southwestern Christian University doing?

Answer: I have no idea.

I watched Rita Tate, the chair of Southwestern Christian's Board of Regents, speak first Wednesday. She started by quoting Theodore Roosevelt, which was weird. But whatever. Her point was that Bliss has been through a lot, and he's still standing, and that's something to admire, I guess. Either way, the press conference just got stranger from there, and it was mostly uneventful. Bliss talked at length about being an assistant at Indiana, then the head coach at Oklahoma, SMU and New Mexico. He spoke little about his time at Baylor and avoided the details of the scandal completely, though he did acknowledge "mistakes."

The whole thing was just ... awkward.

Again, I have no idea why Southwestern Christian made this hire.

The school will now forever be known, to the extent it's known at all, as the place that hired a coach who was once at the center of a mind-blowing scandal, and there's no obvious thing to gain from it. A successful basketball program, which is what Southwestern Christian claims it wants, is not going to bring fame or fortune to an NAIA school, point being this isn't like Auburn hiring Bruce Pearl, or Houston hiring Kelvin Sampson, with baggage.

Those two coaches have endured their own NCAA issues, you know?

Nothing like Bliss, obviously.

(Please don't interpret this as an apples-to-apples comparison. Because it's not.)

But still.

Pearl and Sampson were both hired, like Bliss, with baggage administrators had to explain away at their introductory press conferences, but at least there was an undeniable upside to hiring them. Pearl can theoretically make Auburn nationally relevant; Sampson can conceivably return Houston to its glory days. So Auburn and Houston decided to deal with the baggage because the possible payoff was and is massive.

But what's the payoff for Southwestern Christian?

It's getting the worst kinds of baggage in exchange for nothing meaningful.

So ...

What in the world is Southwestern Christian University doing?

Answer: I have no idea.

And yet I can't be outraged by this development the way so many seem to be.

I suppose that's the twist in this column.

I'm not that offended by what Southwestern Christian has done.

To be clear, I'd personally never hire Dave Bliss, and there's absolutely no scenario under which I'd let either of my sons play for him. In fact, I don't know why anybody would let their sons play for him. And if there's a single intelligent reason for a school to hire a 71-year-old coach with Bliss' wikipedia page, not to mention a 71-year-old coach who's been out of college coaching for 12 years, honest to God, I can't think of it.

This is all so stupid.

I have no idea why Southwestern Christian is doing this.

And yet I can't get this thought out of my head: Why should I care too much?

The story of Dave Bliss is well-documented, and folks at Southwestern Christian must've known what they were doing before they did it. For whatever reason, they're comfortable with this, and they're framing it as a Christian school giving a disgraced but changed man a second chance while forgiving him for his sins, ugly and public as they may be. For the 47th time, I don't get it. Makes no sense to me. But if the school is cool with it, I don't know that I can genuinely tell you I believe this is the worst thing in the history of bad things.

Yes, what Dave Bliss did was deplorable.

But let's be clear about what he did.

Basically, Bliss committed major rules violations and then, after one player murdered another, did whatever he thought was necessary to try to avoid the scandal engulfing his program. Incredibly, what he thought he had to do was paint a murder victim as a drug-dealer, and the idea that he could do that to a mother's child is incomprehensible.

I'd never let my sons near the guy.

But, if you think about it, the reason Bliss did that is the same reason Bruce Pearl lied about a cookout at his home, the same reason Donnie Tyndall deleted presumably incriminating emails at Southern Miss, the same reason any of us lie or deceive when we lie and deceive. Bliss was focused on self-preservation and nothing but self-preservation, and it's amazing what people sometimes do in the name of self-preservation.

Granted, what Bliss did was way worse than what most do.

What Bliss did was so much worse.

But his actions were rooted in a fairly common instinct, and if you're reading any of these words as an excuse rather than an explanation then you are either reading them incorrectly or I'm writing them incorrectly. So, just in case, let me be clear: Dave Bliss made a huge mistake, lots of huge mistakes, and, back in 2003, he deserved to pay with his job and reputation, and he'll forever be defined by his role in the Baylor scandal, as he should be.

Hopefully, we're all on the same page here.

But 2003 was a long time ago.

It's now 2015.

And if a small Christian university has decided it would like to give an old man whom administrators believe has changed the opportunity to work and, perhaps in his own mind, find some peace in the twilight of his life, why should I care too much?

Why should any of us care too much?

Dave Bliss will never get the career he once had or his reputation back. When he dies, he'll die as the modern-day evil basketball coach. Nothing that happens at Southwestern Christian will change any of that, and, frankly, that feels like enough of a punishment to me.

Dave Bliss is now the head coach at an NAIA school. (USATSI)
Dave Bliss is now the head coach at an NAIA school. (USATSI)

CBS Sports Insider

Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories