FORT WORTH, Texas — When your football team’s lead decision-maker, your quarterback, screws up on the field, you move on the next play. No use lingering on an interception when you’ve got a game to win. Memories have to be short.
When that same guy makes a major mistake off the field, you face what TCU is dealing with now.
Casey Pachall, the Horned Frogs’ returning starter, admitted to police in February he had used marijuana and also failed a drug test.
But instead of allowing his trust and confidence in Pachall to waver, TCU coach Gary Patterson is standing by his star QB. Both addressed the media Sunday afternoon.
Patterson said there has been no team punishment for Pachall, though the quarterback did have to undergo drug and alcohol counseling, as prescribed by the
university. He is not serving suspensions, nor will he,
meaning the son of a retired highway patrolman will be under
center when the Horned Frogs open 2012 at remodeled Amon G. Carter
against Grambling State on Sept. 8.
“I truly do apologize for what’s been said and done on my behalf lately and in the past, as well,” Pachall said as TCU kicked off preseason camp in preparation for its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference. “What’s been done, I’ve made mistakes. I know I’m not perfect, but I’ve learned from those mistakes and I’m still learning.
“It’s a day-to-day process for me trying to be a better person and trying to be a role model and leader for this team and this community and this university. I’m trying on a day-to-day basis to be that person I need to be with the same expectations that (exist) when I step on the field. I need to have those same expectations for how I live off the field.”
Pachall didn’t take questions from the assembled media. Patterson did. A lot.
The 52-year-old coach talked about Pachall and the rest of his players from the perspective of being a parent. Mistakes happen. There are consequences. There’s also forgiveness and moving on.
“He’s a football player to you,” Patterson said. “He’s somebody’s kid to me.”
Pachall attended the Big 12’s media days last month as one of TCU’s four player representatives, suggesting that his indiscretions had been put to rest.
There’s no doubt that Pachall is essential to the Horned Frogs’ first swim through the Big 12. Cynics will say Patterson’s motivation in not punishing Pachall is about getting the team ready for the step up competition. Patterson can’t and won’t try to stop such talk.
For all he’s been part of during TCU’s resurrection from Southwest Conference outcast to national power, Patterson hasn’t had to deal with something like this. It’s a level of embarrassment not seen at TCU since the days of rampant recruiting scandal and probation in the 1980s.
Patterson attacked it straight on, as he’s been prone to do during his 12 years as head coach.
When he heard rumors last year that Devin Johnson was selling drugs, Patterson confronted the cornerback face to face. Johnson, linebacker Tanner Brock, offensive lineman Tyler Horn and defensive tackle D.J. Hendrey were eventually arrested in a police sting operation and subsequently kicked off the team.
TCU players have undergone six drug tests since February and 25 in the last 18 months.
“We’re in the parent and we’re in the teacher business,” Patterson said. “When we quit being that, then we need to stop.”
The Frogs are also in the football business, and TCU is predicted to finish in the middle of the Big 12 pack. That’s not disrespect for a program that won the past three Mountain West Conference titles. TCU has lost 11 starters from last season’s 11-2 squad. Eighty-five players are either freshmen or sophomores.
Yet, Patterson thinks highly of his players. He said Pachall is as good as any QB in the Big 12. Same goes for the running back tandem of Matthew Tucker and Waymon James.
Patterson also thinks highly of new linebackers coach Randy Shannon. Formerly head coach at Miami, Shannon brings new ideas and gives the defensive-inclined Patterson another sounding board.
TCU also has history. The incoming seniors are 36-3 over the past three years. This is a program that doesn’t shy away from laying out crystal football goals for everyone to see. The Horned Frogs expect to be on equal footing with Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and the rest of their new conference mates.
“One of the things we have in our favor is we know how to win,” Patterson said.
He did say the Big 12 life is a relative unknown, and it’ll probably take three to five years to learn the league and to adjust recruiting accordingly. Still, Patterson and TCU haven’t backed down to anyone in the past dozen years.
When practices begin Monday, Patterson said, “we’re going to start seeing how it works.”