Inevitably when a college football scandal surfaces, immediate reaction from a vocal minority is one of hysteria. The sport is out of control. Fire this guy. Fire that guy. Disband the program.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson is sure to endure his share of shrapnel in the coming weeks, before the next salacious story commands the nation’s attention. In the meantime, information surfacing from Fort Worth are juicy enough to keep dirt dogs salivating for a while. The affidavit outlines details of DJ Yendrey, Tanner Wilson, Devin Johnson and Ty Horn selling marijuana, including to TCU teammates. Realistically, the nuances are rather mundane were the people involved not football players.
If we may digress down the path of personal anecdote, I remember purchasing a fake ID in college. There was a process to finding out who the guys were, how they accepted customers, etc. But once such matters were ironed out, the actual transaction felt more like going to a neighbor’s to borrow some milk than undertaking an illegal endeavor. My ID was used mostly for buying cases of atrocious Keystone Light from the nearby 7-11, or the occasional keg for a party and never the bar scene — a wise move, as the amount of IDs from this particular state shown at doors around campus raised red flags that eventually led to the sellers’ arrest. Rumors I could never confirm said the same group of ID makers were popped for selling weed.
The point is, such transactions around a college campus aren’t exactly like the drug deal scene in Training Day, wherein students venture to a shady part of the city and risk their lives. It’s more like my friends and I buying fake IDs, sitting on a couch in a nice condo and playing a game of Madden as we waited for our product to finish printing and lamenating. And we didn’t share the bond with these guys teammates on a football team would develop. The casualty with which deals could have gone down at TCU is probably even more akin to the borrowed milk analogy.
Now, if you survived that winding anecdote, here’s the more important crux to this story: athletes are held to a higher standard than the average college student. Thus, their involvement in a seamier, yet prevalent off-shoot of college life is going to face scrutiny. Coaches bear the brunt of said scrutiny, so brace yourself for a few days of columns or radio segments devoted to chastising Patterson for his lack of omnipotence.
Interestingly enough, TCU was a program commended for its squeaky clean track record prior to today. Patterson’s a reason for that. Critics are likely to contend the decade prior to today’s arrests was a shiny facade. Maybe. As more information comes to light, we’ll have a better understanding of all that transpired at TCU, and for how long.
But of the lessons Penn State taught us this past fall, two are most critically applied to TCU. The first: football coaches are human beings, too. They are not infallible dieties. They are capable of errors, and should not be worshipped in cult-like fashion, lest they lose touch with reality or strive only to preserve their demigod images. The second: when something does go awry — and inevitably, it will — how he responds is of the utmost importance.
Patterson and his staff could not be everywhere at once, but part of a coaching staff’s duty is ensuring players follow the rules, whether those rules are NCAA guidelines or state/federal laws. Therefore, criticism is warranted. However, Patterson’s reaction to rumors suggest a genuine commitment to cleaning the mess; not merely sweeping it under the proverbial rug.
Patterson’s call for a team-wide drug test came at the prompting of a recruit. Who that recruit is remains a mystery. With any luck, it will remain that way as I’d surmise he did not make aware Patterson aware to earn kudos. It was the right thing to do, never an easy choice for a teenager. Patterson made his own tough call with the drug tests. He’ll have another in deciding players’ fates in the Frogs’ pivotal, first Big 12 season.
And Year One is a biggie for the Frogs. TCU ended 2011 on a decided uptick, beating Boise State on the Smurf Turf and winning the Mountain West championship on its way to 11 victories. Quarterback Casey Pachall returns with a legitimately Heisman-level game. There’s reason to believe that on a smoothly paved road, the Frogs could drive to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl.
This detour might mean giving up that opportunity, but Patterson can set a much-needed example that there’s still a place for character in the win-at-all-costs BCS.