Part of the reward for college athletes playing in a bowl game is the nightlife in the host city around the holidays.
But it is part of the experience that must be managed, particularly in a vibrant area like San Antonio’s downtown River Walk.
Two years ago, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin was arrested after a fight at a downtown bar.
Five years ago, two Texas players were suspended at the Alamo Bowl after violating curfew.
This week, with TCU returning to San Antonio to meet Stanford on Thursday in the Alamo Bowl, the players were reminded of their responsibility to avoid trouble for themselves and their school.
“That’s fine with me,” quarterback Kenny Hill said of the warnings to avoid the bar that led to the Boykin incident. “I’m chilling, anyway.”
The Alamo Bowl offers the teams a chance to listen to a presentation about the downtown area.
“We have a very safe downtown, but as Coach (Gary) Patterson would say, sometimes people can be knuckleheads,” said Alamo Bowl spokesman Rick Hill said. “We want everybody to be smart about what they do. Every year we add activities, optional ones. We want them to have activities and the standard bowl events. Sometimes if there is too much free time, it becomes an issue.”
TCU authored an inspiring comeback victory without its Heisman candidate quarterback two years ago, but Boykin and the school took a hit to their reputation in the days before the game.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the best player or the walk-on,” Patterson said. “What you’ve got to understand is, we all represent TCU. When one screws up, then we’re all that. Whatever we do, every guy on your team is all that.”
The River Walk and its nightlife is an attraction not only for players, but also fans and other visitors. It can be a volatile mix, which is part of the message the players hear, said former TCU quarterback Bram Kohlhausen.
“They’ll bring in Fort Worth PD or whatever local city police, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, these are the parts you don’t want to be in alone,’ whether you’re in downtown Atlanta or downtown San Antonio,” he said.
Other warnings include, “Try to always have a buddy, don’t rep your school everywhere because there are going to be other fans that are there for the wrong reasons, kind of keep your nose down,” Kohlhausen said. “So they give you the lay of the land, just basically warn you where not to be and where it’s OK.”
Patterson said he did not tighten or change TCU’s curfew policies since Boykin’s arrest two years ago.
“We had bed check,” Patterson said. “We knew what we were supposed to do.”
The players have accepted that the responsibility to remain out of trouble lies with them.
“You also have to trust your brother to be accountable,” running back Kyle Hicks said. “You don’t want him to put himself at risk or a teammate at risk. I always look out for my teammates, make sure everyone came here in one piece and goes back in one piece.”
Two years ago, Kohlhausen blamed himself for not keeping his best friend, Boykin, out of trouble.
But he said it is still an individual decision whether to go out. Coaches like Patterson, too, have long cautioned that they cannot control 120 players around the clock on a bowl trip.
“It’s kind of a personal preference, really,” Kohlhausen said. “Being our age, 18 to 22, typically, it’s kind of however you want to treat your vacation. Half the team will go check out the city, then there’s the other half that wants to stay off their feet. It’s really to each his own. It’s on you to be responsible. In college, you can get into trouble just as much in Fort Worth or Stillwater or Lubbock as you can in San Antonio.”
This week, and in future years, the balancing act is unlikely to change for TCU and other teams.
“The real reason why we’re here is to play a game,” cornerback Ranthony Texada said. “All this other stuff is just extra. Enjoy it, but we’re here to win, too.”