TCU Football Is Having A Bad, Bad Week

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TCU is experiencing a a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good week.

Saturday the Frogs fell to 3-4 after Oklahoma varnished and shellacked them, 52-27, on national television. Monday TCU coach Gary Patterson announced that sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson, the highest-rated QB signee in school history, would have season-ending shoulder surgery.

The biggest headline, though, was that senior receiver and big-play return man KaVontae Turpin had been arrested Sunday accused of assault with bodily injury of a family member. Patterson announced that Turpin was suspended.

That suspension became a dismissal Tuesday. Solid reporting by Shehan Jeyarajah of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football and Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram uncovered the fact that Turpin had other legal problems. In March while on spring break in New Mexico, he was arrested on a battery charge, criminal damage to property of a household member and interference with communications. Turpin also had a bench warrant issued because he failed to appear for a pre-trial hearing in July.

Turpin’s arrest Sunday might have led to his permanent suspension, but the previous incident gave Patterson no choice but to dismiss Turpin. He announced that decision Tuesday during his weekly news conference as the news cycle was spinning at high speed. Patterson said he had not informed Turpin of his dismissal before making the announcement. (That’s cold.)

Allowing a player with an outstanding arrest warrant to play in the season’s first seven games is a bad look. What did TCU coaches and administrators know and when did they know it?

The school issued this statement Tuesday:

“The football staff was aware there was an incident in New Mexico, but not that charges included an alleged battery. The publicly available information they reviewed at the time only showed a charge related to property damage. We did not know until yesterday that his legal issues were unresolved.”

The reporters who broke the details about Turpin’s New Mexico arrest had little trouble finding that information. The Star-Telegram found the information regarding Turpin’s arrest by going to the website, nmcourts.gov and following the “find a case” link.

Later Tuesday, the school issued a second statement:

“The football staff was aware there was an incident in New Mexico, but not that charges included an alleged battery. The publicly available information they reviewed at the time only showed a charge related to property damage. We did not know until yesterday that his legal issues were unresolved.”

Pro tip: Avoid issuing a statement that clarifies a previous statement on the same toxic topic.

Patterson opened his news conference by showing a piece of paper that had the (incomplete) information his staff had obtained about Turpin. Patterson also said that when questioned about what had happened in March, Turpin didn’t disclose the charge about battery.

“Obviously, I wish I knew more,” Patterson said. “I’m not trying to cover anything up. Our players are like our kids, just like my own sons, but the bottom line to it is if they cross the line then there’s always a penalty to pay. It’s not something that can be tolerated.”

Should failing to adequately run background checks be tolerated? If two enterprising, intrepid reporters can access information on web sites – information that anyone with a device and an internet connection can access – then why can’t a Power Five athletic department do the same?

Don’t consider those rhetorical questions. And don’t assume the answers are easy.

It’s routine operating procedure to run background checks on recruits’ criminal history and social media posts. Once the player arrives on campus, apparently Big Brother is compelled to back off and discontinue the due diligence. Also, if word gets out that certain players (trouble makers or potential trouble makers) are the only ones whose backgrounds are checked, that would create some locker room anger.

Also, it’s unwise relying on the football staff to do the kind of background check needed to get the right stuff about Turpin’s trouble in New Mexico. Even if there was an honest effort, it was a failed effort. The TCU administration and its football staff wound up looking incompetent.

And that almost overshadows how the Frogs are performing.

In his first season as a starter, Robinson was being counted on to help TCU stay near the top of the Big 12 standings. He showed flashes of his passing and running abilities, but he also was inconsistent and turnover prone. A fumble and an interception led to 14 Ohio State points when the Frogs fell to the Buckeyes, 40-28, in Week Three.

Robinson suffered a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury late in a victory over Iowa State. Wearing a heavy brace, he lasted four series against Oklahoma before being replaced by sophomore Michael Collins. He led the team to scores on four of its next five possessions.

Collins is a transfer from Penn, so TCU’s offense is now in the hands of a former Ivy League quarterback. Nothing against Collins or his talent, but this isn’t how the Riff Ram fans figured their season was going to evolve.

“Every once in a while, everybody thinks they want to be a head ball coach,” Patterson said Tuesday, “just to find out they probably don’t want to be a head ball coach.”