Friday, February 17, 2012

TCU Facing the Music

In an academic year that saw one major university become synonymous with what not to do in crisis, TCU begins a journey that night lead them to become the model of what to do when your reputation is on the line.

Yesterday, news broke of 18 arrests related to drug dealing at the Fort Worth school, 14 of them students and four very famously part of the squeaky clean football team.

In a stark contrast to Penn State, TCU held press conferences in which they admitted to bringing in Fort Worth PD from the start and football coach Gary Patterson held a team-wide surprise drug test on National Signing Day.

The university and athletic department right now are getting praise in the same newspaper columns for their actions as they facts are rolled out. And that is a key difference between TCU so far and almost any other university. The Horned Frogs are taking their lumps right now, getting it over with, having the terrible facts lined up without additional snarky or cutting extra commentary that results from evasive maneuvers.

Obviously, it's just day two, but the comments of one of the busted football players reveal much. When he volunteered to the undercover cop he'd just made a deal with that Patterson had held the drug test, that it was bullshit and he knew he failed it, you get a sense of why this got so big. The worse part was his bragging that nothing was going to happen because to paraphrase, what are they going to do since the whole team failed it.

Son, go ask SMU what happens when it gets like that. They can take away your football career. And they could take away your team.

See, here is the really bright moment in darkness. TCU is acting like its reputation is on the line, because it is. In the media accounts, the campus police head admits the investigation began because of parent complaints at the start of the year. A source said Patterson ordered the drug test - at this stage somewhat independent of the police investigation - because the parent of a star recruit said they turned down the school because of the drug use on the team.

Time will reveal how much inside action there was on this, but in stark contrast to Penn State, a school who also rose in national attention thanks to its football team, the reaction time was much faster to legitimate complaints that proved to be genuine issues.

John Sloan of UAB put it best in the Dallas Morning News yesterday:

In decades past, there's a ton of evidence that institutions would deliberately cover up news like this.

If you want to follow the local coverage, Unfortunately, you'll be pay wall on a lot of their work.

Kevin Sherrington does not give out warm fuzzy praise, but the sports columnist makes it clear he's giving TCU credit for moving fast.

Sherrington gives Patterson's statement, which the columnist praised for "captured the mood." Note Sherrington's interjection:

"There are days people want to be a head football coach," he said in a statement that seemed less prepared than from the heart, "but today is not one of those days. As I heard the news this morning, I was first shocked, then hurt and now I'm mad."

Sherrington's mid-column summation is one that should resonate across America. He writes about Patterson:

He didn't plead ignorance of the facts or hide behind TCU lawyers. He didn't call it an internal matter. No one's running stadium steps.

Sherrington later speaks to the institution as a whole, writing

But whatever the nature of the facts, TCU is sending a message, all right, and it reaches far beyond its locker rooms.

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