Middle of February; the games, hires and signing day are behind us while spring ball is still weeks away yet college football continues to find its way to the front page for us on a regular basis. Tuesday the story was all about West Virgnia's settlement with the Big East and the release of the new Big XII schedule. On Wednesday the eyes would again shift to the Big XII as another newcomer, TCU makes headlines and this time it isn't exactly good.
Four TCU football players were arrested Wednesday in conjunction with a six-month drug sting that netted some 18 total arrests including 15 current TCU students. The four players; linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive tackle DJ Yendrey, cornerback Devin Johnson and offensive tackle Tyler Horn were all brought in for selling marijuana as the sting itself caught the individuals selling everything from pot to cocaine and ecstasy.
The arrest isn't a football problem as the players were merely caught in a larger situation that police were investigating. In fact the arrests, by themselves, show little to me with respect to TCU's football program beyond some guys sell a little pot on the side. Not something remarkably eye opening unless you're the type of person of the mindset that this doesn't go on other places. The type who thought TCU was different.
However, we do get into some football related issues when Gary Patterson, the head coach, reportedly called for a team drug test to start the month of February after a recruit turned down TCU, telling Patterson it was on account of the drug use by the current players. After said drug test two of the players involved in the arrests, Brock and Johnson, both spoke candidly during drug sales about the amount of players who would likely fail the test. Johnson said some 82 players failed the test while Brock said at least 60 of the players would be screwed.
This is where it gets a bit interesting as there are some elements of drug testing that need cleared up and some questions that TCU has yet to truly answer with regards to policy and procedure.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this story I got some questions with regards to the NCAA and drug testing that need to be knocked out as the nature of it all is a bit nebulous to most fans.
For starters the types of test used are urine tests. Obviously there can be blood test done should the NCAA suspect sample tampering or, in the case of certain Olympic sports, blood doping. Hair tests are not mentioned in any of the NCAA policy and given the expense and the nature of the drug policy they don't fit into the NCAA's approach.
Speaking of nature of the policy folks must understand that the NCAA drug testing policy is largely competition based. Yes, they test for street drugs, however the goal is to eliminate the use of performance enhancing drugs in the regular and post-season as well as offseason training by players. Performance enhancing drugs draw the worst immediate penalties while street drugs lead down the counseling and awareness route with more "rope" being given to offenders.
For individual schools their drug policies differ and we'll get into TCU's here shortly, but folks must remember that both the NCAA and the school's athletic department the drug policies are in addition to the general student policy. Meaning athletes who fail drug tests or are arrested for drug offenses should be facing the same processes and procedure as the normal students who get popped for the same offenses.
Now TCU we're going to get into this because as you dig the case becomes infinitely more interesting. For the first time we have more concrete speculation as to how much of the team was involved in drugs and alcohol and a bit more of the curtain, with respect to school sanctioned drug tests, is pulled back.
For starters no I don't buy Brock and Johnson's speculation that some 82 or 60 players would fail the drug tests. By Johnson assertion that would mean roughly 3* people on the entire team were capable of passing and by Brock's figure we've be looking at 73% of the roster. That's a lot and while it is a very real possibility if drugs are within the culture of the school I tend to think the numbers, for any team across the country, fall closer to the 33% to 50% range.
*TCU's roster had 103 people on it for 2011, 18 of them were seniors. If 18 seniors left that leaves 85 people on the roster. Not accounting for transfers and early enrollees.
However, even if we're not buying the massive numbers kicked out there by Brock and Johnson we can still safely assume a good portion of the team ran a high risk of failing this pop quiz of a drug test. If the test was spur of the moment that means no cleanser time, no massive water chugging to dilute the sample and get an inconclusive, no move to schedule something of a time conflict and avoid the test. So everyone took the test, TCU administered said test and, at least as far as we know, no one received any disciplinary action from the test.
Here is where we get into policy and the relatively arbitrary nature of the enforcement. The NCAA has nothing to do with this drug test as it was an institution administered test, not the random maybe once yearly NCAA drug test that only a handful of players even take. TCU administered test and TCU gets to mete out, or not mete out, the punishment hear after they decide that the results do or more importantly don't matter.
Per the TCU Code of Student Conduct students caught in a non-incident violation of the drug policy (failed random drug test) results in mandatory counseling and possible other actions after meeting with the Dean of Campus Life. For an incident motivated violation students face a one year probation, 40 hours of community service, either a $200 fine of 40 more hours of service and random testing to monitor during probationary period. A third violation results in suspension from school.
This is the baseline procedure for any Horned Frog student involved in drug violations, the TCU student athlete is subject to more punishment in addition to the Code of Student Conduct. Per the TCU Student Athlete Handbook the first offense or a non-probationary offense the Athletic Director, Vice Chancellor of student affairs and Head Coach are all notified, the athlete is sent to counseling, put on probation with random testing follow ups and faces possible expulsion, revocation of scholarship and/or dismissal from the team. In addition to this we note that parents or guardians are notified in two ways; verbally by the head man Gary Patterson himself and a written note from the university.
The student athlete handbook is important because interesting questions begin to come up. Were the proper channels notified of any failed drug tests during this February 1st testing? I don't believe the media should know everything with regards to players on probation, failing tests or being suspended but out of TCU we've seen no disciplinary action as a result of failing this tests. Another big question: how many parents were called by Patterson to be made aware of the failed test and/or sent a written note from the university?
For those athletes who violation the probation they are suspended for an entire season, face monitoring drug tests, required counseling and they are up for scholarships being pulled. On the third failed test student-athletes are sent packing in a sort of "three strikes you're out" policy similar to the one we see in many places around the country.
Asking those tough questions will shed some light as to how closely or loosely TCU followed their own drug policy both at the school and at the athletic department level. If the Vice Chancellor, Athletic Director and Parents weren't notified then that's a failure, a willing failure, in the policy that they enacted for themselves.
However, not putting TCU "on blast" here because that's what I wholeheartedly expect. Drug tests mean exactly what a coach wants them to mean. They can be used as a means to dismiss a player the coach wants to get rid of, see Stephen Garcia. They can be a showy practice for a coach who has to appear to be in control, see Les Miles and Tyrann Mathieu. They can be a buried, undiscussed situation that was supposed to just go away, see Gary Patterson until these arrests came down.
That's what school sanctioned drug tests are folks. They don't matter nearly as much as you wish they did and while you think your school is different odds are kids are pulling extra chances same as they do everywhere else. It isn't a regional issue, it is just how college football works. If you matter to the team and you fail a drug test that sucks but they'll figure out a way to keep it moving. Failing too many drug tests is a bridge that they'll cross when they get to it. So long as you're not arrested they can usually make it work.
But, as we've seen with Janoris Jenkins, getting arrested is the real issue here. Brock, Johnson, Yendrey and Horn got arrested, and not just for simple possession as we see all over the country. Their arrest has pulled back the wool because they were so brazen about involvement with drugs and in their discussion with the law enforcement officers involved in setting the ring up for the downfall.
Now TCU has some tough questions to answer and Gary Patterson will, or should at least, be asked these questions in the next few days as we find out just how serious the school took this drug test and the tests before it.
As for the four football players and 11 other student involved, good luck to them. TCU's Code of Student Conduct is pretty clear on the punishment for selling drugs; immediate expulsion. It is explicitly stated in their student handbook and while there is an appeals process their only true hope comes from some sort of leniencey from the prosecutors in order to reduce the charges and possibly allow for them to get back in school.
Although to be fair these folks are probably far less worried about getting back into classes at TCU and far more worried about not going to the clink for a few years.