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February 15, 2012

Drug arrests taint recent success at TCU

MORE TCU COVERAGE: Go to PurpleMenace.com

FORT WORTH - Perhaps unfairly overlooked in the tale of the little program that could - Texas Christian University's rebirth as a football power that came with a BCS bowl win, a No. 2 national ranking and invitation to join the Big 12 - was this little factoid:

The school was the only Top 25 football program that did not have a single player with an arrest, according to a recent Sports Illustrated study.

It was a statistic that gave the school and head coach Gary Patterson as much pride as the team's Rose Bowl victory two seasons ago.

That distinction disintegrated Wednesday morning as four members of the team were arrested as part of a campus-wide drug distribution bust that resulted in the arrest of 17 students, many of which were charged with felonies.

Linebacker Tanner Brock, the team's leading tackler two seasons ago, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey, strong safety Devin Johnson and offensive tackle Ty Horn were all arrested. All but Horn were expected to start this fall.

According to the Associated Press, police say members of the group arrested were caught making "hand-to-hand" sales of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs to undercover officers.

The four players, according to the arrest affidavits,were charged only with marijuana sales.

TCU police chief Steve McGee said the arrests came after a six-month investigation prompted by complaints from students, parents and others. Police would not rule out more arrests, but said only people caught selling drugs had been arrested Wednesday.

The school, acting swiftly, has booted all four players off the team. They all face expulsion from the school.

Patterson, who should have been answering questions about TCU's first run through the Big 12 - the league schedules were released Tuesday - instead had to issue a statement about the incident to the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram.

He wasn't happy.

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

[ Y! Sports Radio: Matt Reagan of PurpleMenace.com joins David Nuno ]

"Under my watch, drugs and drug use by TCU's student-athletes will not be tolerated by me or any member of my coaching staff. Period. Our program is respected nationally for its strong ethics and for that reason the players arrested today were separated from TCU by the University. I believe strongly that young people's lives are more important than wins or losses."

The incident stunned the students at the school, which has an enrollment of just under 10,000.

It was the talk of the students mulling around at the Brown-Lupton University Union mid-day, though some opted not to talk to the media, saying they had been instructed by various organizations not to do so.

Others, however, were more than willing to share their thoughts.

"As far as the players go, I didn't see it as that crazy," Mike Hernandez, a freshman electrical engineering major from New York, said. "I didn't see [the players] as saints before the whole event so it wasn't too shocking. But it was shocking that there were like 20 kids involved.

"I think the number of it was more shocking than the fact that the players were involved."

Bear Hostetler, a freshman history major from Chicago, said such things come with university life. But he admits the school will be damaged by it.

"I think this happens at every campus and every university and I think it makes the school look bad more than anything," he said. "If you look hard enough, you are going to find it. And they did find it and that makes us look bad."

School administrators spent the morning doing damage control.

"I expect our student-athletes to serve as ambassadors for the university and will not tolerate behavior that reflects poorly on TCU, the athletics department, our teams or other student-athletes within the department," athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a released statement. "We educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community and it is disappointing to me, personally, when they fall far short of these goals.

"We have an excellent athletics program at TCU and an indicator of that excellence is the fact that we will not tolerate criminal conduct among our student-athletes."

TCU, in fact, has been known for doing background checks on recruits, eliminating any with red flags.

"I always say that I only have to find 20 to 25 [recruits] each year who want to do it the right way," Patterson told Sports Illustrated. "Sure, there have been times I've bypassed a very talented player because we learned about something he did, but there are always other kids out there. They may need more time to develop, but we know they will buy into what we are doing."

It has not been determined if the players were selling to other athletes on the team or at the school, but school Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. said he does not feel this is an issue prevalent in the program.

"I don't think it's a football problem," he said in a statement.

But it is a problem that has been too often linked to football programs.

The TCU arrests are hardly an isolated incident. TCU is just the latest example of drug-related issues in big-time college football programs dating back as long ago as 23 years ago when Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson was arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover FBI agent.

Thompson spent time in prison following his conviction.

The past few years have brought many more incidents, including:

  • In 2008, Alabama linebacker Jimmy Johns was arrested on charges of selling cocaine to students around the Tuscaloosa campus.

  • In 2010, Washington State redshirt freshmen Jamal Atofau and Andre Barrington were arrested on charges of growing 38 marijuana plants in a house they were renting.

  • In 2010, Iowa receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was arrested on multiple drug charges. He eventually plead guilty to marijuana possession and other charges were dismissed.

  • In 2011, Duke linebacker Tyree Glover was arrested and charged with trafficking cocaine.

    Texas Christian has won at least 11 games each season the past four years, going 47-5 while playing in the lesser-regarded Mountain West Conference.

    Its move to the Big 12 has invigorated its fan base and brought added excitement to the university community.

    TCU was expected to be a top team in the Big 12 in its first year - and still figures to be despite the loss of the four players, three of which were expected to play significant roles, especially Brock, a potential All-American candidate.

    Its squeaky-clean reputation, however, is gone. It is no longer one of the top feel-good stories in a college sports landscape filled with recent scandals.

    Patterson, however, vowed to keep fighting the good fight.

    "As a coach, I do the best I can to educate members of my team," he said. "We have programs in place that teach student-athletes about what they should and shouldn't do and how to be successful in life. I talk to them about how to be students and upstanding men that uphold the TCU name and its traditions.

    "At the end of the day, though, sometimes young people make poor choices. The Horned Frogs are bigger and stronger than those involved."

    (Rivals.com writer David Fox contributed to this report. Information from Associated Press reports were included.)

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