As Baylor University copes with controversy regarding its handling of sexual assault allegations, including those directed at two football players who were later convicted, a production company is filming a documentary about one of the darkest episodes in the school’s history.
Pat Kondelis, a director for Bat Bridge Entertainment in Austin, is interviewing subjects for a film about the 2003 Baylor basketball scandal in which player Carlton Dotson shot and killed teammate Patrick Dennehy. Former coach Dave Bliss then tried to cover up illegal payments to players by portraying Dennehy as a drug dealer.
Kondelis has interviewed Bliss and has contacted 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, former District Attorney John Segrest and McLennan County Court-at-Law Judge Mike Freeman to try to interview them for the film.
Kondelis was tight-lipped about the project in a phone interview Monday. He would not divulge if a network has picked up his work-in-progress and would not say if an airdate has been scheduled.
According to its website, Bat Bridge Entertainment is a “full-service production company” based in Austin.
“We are storytellers who create high-quality content for major cable networks and digital content providers. Bat Bridge Entertainment reveals the tapestry of the human experience. Our stunning visual style pairs perfectly with our ability to tell substantive, entertaining narratives,” its website says.
Kondelis, also from Austin, has produced, directed and shot multiple award-winning documentaries for PBS and has produced other projects for CNN, A&E, History Channel and Nat Geo, according to his bio. He also has worked on “Austin City Limits” and directed music videos.
Kondelis has told those he has attempted to interview that he has a May 27 deadline for the film.
Bliss, who resigned from Baylor after Dennehy was killed and his NCAA infractions were revealed, has coached the past year at Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, Oklahoma.
Bliss coached his team this year to the brink of the National Christian College Athletic Association championship, losing to top-seeded Emmanuel College of Georgia in the title game.
After losing seven of its first nine games, SCU ended the season 19-15 in Bliss’ first year.
Bliss said he is not sure why, after 13 years, Kondelis wants to make a documentary about Baylor’s most tragic days and one of the worst scandals in NCAA history.
“He is a better judge of that than I am,” Bliss said. “You would have to ask him. I have been through a real journey, and this has been just a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful experience for me here at Southwestern Christian. It couldn’t have been better — well, maybe one notch better — but the reality is my team made me proud of them.”
Segrest, who was district attorney when Dotson killed Dennehy, said he hasn’t decided if he will allow Kondelis to interview him.
“It has been 13 years. It has been awhile,” said Segrest, whose father served on Baylor’s board of regents. “I don’t know what his slant on the whole thing is. He claims he doesn’t have one and has no real agenda other than he thinks it is a great story and he wanted me to try to answer questions. That is 13 years ago and a lack of a perfect memory. But I do recall my attitude. I was going to pursue justice regardless of who might have gotten hurt by it, Baylor in particular.”
Hunt and Reyna represented Dotson after his arrest in Maryland. They worked out an agreement with Segrest for Dotson to plead guilty with no recommendation from Segrest’s office about sentencing. They left sentencing up to Strother, who sentenced Dotson to 35 years in prison.
Hunt and Freeman, who was a prosecutor at the time and who worked with Segrest on the case, said they have declined to speak to Kondelis.
“The thing I remember is it was the first time I worked with Abel, and I was very impressed. Abel has some real skills,” said Hunt, who has practiced law for 39 years. “But I really don’t think I could add to his story. It turned out to be a plea and not a trial and I didn’t want to get into waiving attorney-client privilege. Basically, I don’t really remember a whole lot about it.”
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman declined comment about the documentary.
Dotson is housed at the John B. Connally prison unit in Kenedy. He is not eligible for parole until January 2021.
Dotson had a history of mental problems before coming to Baylor and he initially was found incompetent to stand trial for killing his teammate. He has spent part of his 35-year prison term in a psychiatric facility.
Dotson, a standout basketball player from Maryland, fled there after fatally shooting Dennehy and told FBI agents in Maryland that people, including Dennehy, were trying to kill him because he was the son of God.
He claimed he shot Dennehy in self-defense, and his attorneys said his increased paranoia, deteriorating mental state and drug usage likely were critical factors in his decision to kill his teammate and friend.
Dennehy, a 6-foot-10 native of Santa Clara, California, transferred from the University of New Mexico to Baylor in 2002. His decomposed body was found at a gravel pit outside Waco about six weeks after he disappeared.