TCU

Fans grapple with fallout of former TCU player’s lawsuit

Former TCU receiver Kolby Listenbee is suing TCU, coach Gary Patterson, the Big 12 Conference and others in the aftermath of a hip injury he suffered in 2015.
Former TCU receiver Kolby Listenbee is suing TCU, coach Gary Patterson, the Big 12 Conference and others in the aftermath of a hip injury he suffered in 2015. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

It doesn’t take F. Lee Bailey to know that Dallas County is a much more plaintiff-friendly venue for Kolby Listenbee’s complaints against TCU, Gary Patterson and the Big 12 Conference to be heard.

Upon hearing the news of the former TCU wide receiver’s lawsuit, Fort Worth’s football fandom rushed to the defense of its beloved football coach with figurative pitchforks in hand.

More recently, some of his former players, including one-time quarterback Casey Pachall, have spoken in defense of their coach and school.

“I do have support for Gary Patterson, and I’m on TCU’s side,” said Pachall, who played at TCU from 2009-13, through a text message.

Listenbee alleges that Patterson, former offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and other coaches “continually harassed, humiliated, pressured and threatened” Listenbee after his injury diagnosis in an effort to “force Listenbee to return to play quickly” after sustaining a hip injury against SMU in 2015.

Listenbee said that rather than allow a period of recovery, TCU’s training staff “routinely injected him with pain and steroidal medications to make it possible for him to endure the pain of the injury while playing.”

Whether the suit ever sees formal proceeding, time will tell, but for most on this side of the Trinity, minds have been made up without needing to hear a word of testimony.

The mood on TCU’s campus shared themes of social media rants on the subject.

To a vast majority asked on Saturday before the Horned Frogs’ basketball game with Texas Tech, Listenbee’s suit is nothing more than a money grab after an NFL career that did not meet his expectations.

The subject of TCU football and the coach is sacred, holy grail-type ground. A few others, however, were keeping an open mind.

“I played football in high school and you do see that, coaches pushing guys to get back on the field,” said Connor Adrian, a 20-year-old sophomore from Connecticut. “I’m hoping it’s not a big deal, but I could see that it might be just because safety right now in the sport is such a concern.

“If something were come out, I’m sure the NCAA would get involved and there should be repercussions. I don’t think it would impact my view of Gary Patterson’s character, I just think that’s how football is.”

Another student, who asked not to be identified, said the “adoring” rush to support Patterson makes it easier to see how institutions, like Baylor and Penn State, could lose control of its programs through the force of cult of personality.

“Is it really a good idea to worship the football coach?” said the student, a 21-year-old from Houston. “We can support the program and the coach, but blind faith seems like it could lead to trouble.”

That student said she was particularly alarmed to learn of the incident involving Ed Wesley in 2010.

Then-team physician Samuel Haraldson told American Medical News that he was “verbally accosted” by Patterson after he refused to allow Wesley, a running back, to re-enter a game against SMU after he sustained a head injury that Haraldson diagnosed as a concussion.

The heated exchange was shown live by ESPN.

Asked about Wesley the next week, Patterson said: “He’s fine. As far as I’m concerned he was fine 10 minutes after he got hurt. But, it was good that we protected him.”

Haraldson later said the confrontation stemmed from a miscommunication with the coach.

But, the lawsuit brings to light recurring questions about the safety of the sport and its culture.

It also brings to light the issue of loss-of-value insurance for players who fear their NFL value could be hindered by an injury in college.

Loss-of-value protects a player’s future contract value from decreasing below a predetermined threshold amount because of a significant injury or illness suffered during the designated coverage period, according to the NCAA.

The insurance industry mandates that loss-of-value coverage must be purchased in conjunction with permanent total disability coverage and is typically purchased for the year prior to the player becoming draft-eligible.

Listenbee, a graduate of Arlington Bowie, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, but was released a year later without playing in a game. He spent time on the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts at the end of the 2017 season. On Jan. 1 of this year, the Colts signed him to a reserve/futures contract, which is not guaranteed.

Listenbee said the injury in the SMU game involved the cartilage that holds the pelvic bones together. He said that he was diagnosed with pelvic instability, which “requires a minimum of six months of rest and rehabilitation,” according to the lawsuit.

Yet, coaches allegedly pressured him to return long before that.

Listenbee was TCU’s second-leading receiver that season with 30 catches.

“I find it funny he says this after being cut by three NFL teams,” said Steven Louis. “Part of football is playing through injuries. I doubt that medical staff would have cleared him if he wasn’t able to.”

Many on Saturday did not want to comment on the subject. Three faculty members contacted on Friday either declined to comment or did not return messages.

“I’m always going to be a fan but it’s good not to be ignorant,” said Adrian, the student from Connecticut. “If they do find out there’s serious issues, there should be punishment. But I’m also a Patriots fan, so I’m used to the allegations.

“The Patriots deserved what they got. If it something does come out, there should be repercussions, but I’ll always be a fan.”

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