God of Third Chances

Dave Bliss is returning to the college hardwoods after a 12 year absence.

(credit: Washington Post)

                (Credit: Washington Post)

Bliss resigned as Baylor’s head basketball coach in 2003 after one of the ugliest scandals to hit college sports.  There have been numerous ugly scandals in college athletics but the Bliss tragedy has to be at the top of the list.   After the murder of Baylor player Patrick Dennehy by a former player Carlton Dotson, it was discovered that Bliss broke NCAA rules by making tuition payments for players Dennehy and Corey Herring.  Once police began investigating the murder, Bliss attempted to paint Dennehy as a drug dealer in order to cover up his violations.  That’s just scratching the surface.  The story has more twist and turns than an episode of Law and Order.

In stunning news this week, Bliss was announced as the head basketball coach of NAIA Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, Oklahoma.

(Credit: timesunion.com)

                 (Credit: timesunion.com)

What would drive a school to make such a hiring decision?  Bliss does have over 500 wins at the NCAA Division 1 level as head coach at Oklahoma, SMU, New Mexico, and Baylor.  The hiring has brought national media coverage to a school I had never heard of two weeks ago.  I understand the 500 wins.  I understand the media coverage.  But at what cost does it all come?

Troubles continued for Bliss even after his departure from Baylor.  He took the head coaching job at a small private Texas high school and could not avoid hot water.  He was accused of recruiting players, forging documents, and permitting students to pay a small fraction of tuition costs.  Within a year of taking the job he received a suspension from the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS). Bliss was not forced to resign.  Rather, the school simply switched athletic leagues.  Does Dave Bliss deserve a third chance? The answer is difficult.

The pastor in me wants to scream, “Yes!  God has given me 10,000+ chances.  Surely, Dave Bliss deserves a third chance.”  The father of a three year old in me wants to scream, “No!  What are we teaching our kids if we allow Dave Bliss to coach and influence young men?” The answer gets even more difficult if you look up daveblissbook.com and see that Bliss will soon release a book titled, “Fall To Grace.”  From the promotional material found on the website:

More than a decade after Baylor University’s men’s basketball program fell to pieces, former college basketball coach Dave Bliss opens up about his personal journey—from worldly fame, to humiliation, to spiritual discovery—and the unfathomable grace revealed to him by a God who wants to give all of us a second chance at life.

(I did correct the website’s typo in the promotional material.  If you ever catch a typo of mine – please let me know)

I write this post on the heels of a post about unthinkable forgiveness.  No doubt God has forgiven Dave Bliss.  No doubt followers of Jesus Christ should forgive Dave Bliss.  But should Dave Bliss be coaching college basketball?  To be honest, I’d rather him coach college-aged young men than high school kids.  I don’t understand the outrage of those upset that Bliss was hired for a college job while seemingly just fine with him coaching high school kids.  Do we care about punishment more than the influence/impact a coach has on players?

I look forward to reading Bliss’s book.  I will watch what happens with Southwestern Christian University’s basketball program with extreme interest.  As a huge Baylor basketball fan, I’m intrigued by how the Dave Bliss story will end.  Bliss, now 71, has been given a last second shot.

I’m rooting for grace to triumph.

… whatever that looks like.

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