The big news about TCU football was supposed to be from Tuesday: Big 12 opener on September 15 against Kansas! Likely Thanksgiving game at Texas! 

Instead, there was some bigger news on Wednesday: four Horned Frogs football players were among the fifteen students (and eighteen people) arrested in a massive drug bust by the Fort Worth Police Department, the result of a six-month undercover investigation.

They were: star linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive lineman D.J. Yendrey, safety Devin Johnson, and backup offensive lineman Ty Horn.

As the Associated Press reported, those arrested were caught “making ‘hand-to-hand’ sales of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs to undercover officers, police said. They said the bust followed an investigation prompted by complaints from students, parents and others.”

And it wasn’t just the football players. As Mitch Mitchell of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported, “One of the students, Katherine Ann Petrie, 20, is suspected of selling marijuana to an undercover officer from a house on ritzy Bellaire Drive South with her Lexus SUV parked out front,” while another is accused of dealing out of the Sigma Chi fraternity house. 

The university cooperated with the police department, holding a joint press conference on Wednesday morning. In addition to appearing at the press conference, TCU chancellor Victor Boschini released a statement that said, in part: 

While this news is certainly shocking and disappointing, it is important to remember that TCU has clear expectations for its students: that they behave in an ethical manner, abide by campus policies and adhere to state and federal law. These students are charged with acting in a manner that is incompatible with TCU values and against the law.  That is simply unacceptable and such reported behavior is not tolerated at this University….

TCU has never before experienced a magnitude of student arrests such as this. In fact, Campus Police records show only five student arrests related to drug law violations in recent years. 

Here are five key takeaways from Wednesday’s coverage:

1. It Wasn’t Supposed to Happen Here 
Considering the most horrible college football story ever just happened under the formerly sainted Penn State coach Joe Paterno, one shouldn’t really be able to say, “I can’t believe this happened at TCU, of all places.”

But it’s still being said, and with good reason. Back in March, TCU football coach Gary Patterson was prominently featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story on crime and college football. After SI did its own background check on 2,837 college football players on the magazine’s 2010 pre-season top 25 teams, TCU was the only school that didn’t have a player with an adult criminal record (204 players from other schools–seven percent, or one out of every fourteen–did).

In addition, TCU was one of only two schools in SI‘s top 25 that did background checks on its recruits.

“We think it is the best thing for the school because it puts your mind at rest,” Patterson said then. “It lets you know that there is nothing out there about a kid that you could have found out that you didn’t because you didn’t look.”

That insight was hard won, as the Frogs had three players accused of crimes–murder, sexual assault and domestic violence–between 2002 and 2007. Since then, nothing.

But now, wrote Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “the Clean image is gone.”

2. The Students are “Separated” from the University 
Explained Boschini in his statement:

We have a responsibility to ensure that our campus environment is free of such behavior. Today’s actions highlight that responsibility. The students involved were immediately separated from TCU and criminally trespassed from campus. Further, according to University policy, students arrested and found in violation of distributing drugs are subject to immediate expulsion from TCU. 

Translation: those four players are off the team, and should any of the students be convicted of the crimes they are accused of, they’re also out of school for good.

3. There May or May Not Be More Bad News Coming for the Football Team
The arrest warrants include revelations by Brock and Johnson that the entire Horned Frogs football team was given a drug test February 1, after a recruit told Patterson he would not come to the school because of drug use on the team. 

As Frank Heinz of noted:

Brock told the undercover officer that, “I failed that bitch for sure,” referring to the drug test. But he said he wasn’t too worried about it because there “would be about 60 people being screwed.”

In the affidavit, Brock is then quoted as saying that he and teammate Tyler Horn looked over the team roster and concluded that there were only about 20 people on the team who would pass the drug test

According to his arrest affidavit, undercover officers asked defensive back Devin Johnson about the Feb. 1 drug test and he replied, “What can they do? Eighty-two people failed it.”

TCU spokeswoman Lisa Albert said in an email to Stefan Stevenson of the Star-Telegram, “The university is refuting these comments because these comments were made in the context of a drug buy.”

4. TCU Won the Public Relations War
In a statement, Frogs coach Gary Patterson said “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 Star-Telegram‘s Galloway was won over by the way TCU managed things:

…on a bad, bad day for the university, TCU also received ample praise, and deserved praise, for the way it handled the entire process, including calling a news conference for 9:30 a.m., not to merely read a statement, but for all school officials to be available for questions.

Transparency in college is extremely rare when football players are involved in such a case, plus it was TCU and FWPD who investigated for six months, then the school “broke” its own sordid story to the media.

Normally, the school reacts only after a news outlet has reported on the story first. In this case, the news lid stayed on until the school removed it

Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN Dallas also praised Patterson’s handling of the news, even as he claimed not to be a fan of Patterson’s curmudgeonly, controllling personality:

…even his harshest critics have to like the way he’s handled this situation based on what we know today.

Perhaps he’s simply observed what’s happened at Ohio State and Penn State recently and decided the fallout from the cover-up is so much worse than the crime that it’s far better to come clean and deal with the consequences.

Either way, Patterson should be applauded for having the gumption to reportedly order team-wide drug testing when a recruit told him that he was declining a scholarship offer because of the drug culture.

Instead of keeping the information to himself, or telling his boss and letting him handle it, Patterson acted….

Taylor concluded, “Patterson and TCU will survive this shameful day.”

5. People Will Still Make Jokes 
As Sean Pendergast of the Houston Press wrote:

On the surface, TCU is a small (9,500 students), spiritually based (affiliated with the Christian Church) college with a stringent policy about student drug use…. 

But the surface no longer tells the whole story. TCU is a big-time football institution now. They win games, they change conferences, they do drugs. Hell, they even sell drugs!

And Holly Anderson of Sports Illustrated took the time to wonder if the horned frog itself had hallucinogenic properties: “As it happens, the horned frog is really a lizard, which means licking it would have no psychedelic effect,” she wrote.

But, as Anderson also noted, somebody out there has already created a TCU Hypnotoad (based on a character from the TV show Futurama):