Since former TCU wide receiver Kolby Listenbee filed his lawsuit against TCU, Frogs head football coach Gary Patterson and the Big 12 Conference on Jan. 31, the school had avoided any major national story that could potentially make this cash-grab look bad for the defendants.
Not any more.
HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, one of the most respected names in sports journalism, opened its wallet to do a story on Listenbee's case. It will air April 24 at 9 p.m.
TCU may have to sweat this one. This won't be a good look.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Check out the trailer:
From the looks of it, Listenbee has finally been prepped adequately to do such an interview. When he appeared on ESPN's Outside The Lines in early March, the interview Bob Ley conducted with both Listenbee and his attorney was more embarrassing for the plaintiff than destructive for Patterson and TCU.
Much like the "Outside the Lines" piece, TCU contributed a statement for the HBO Real Sports segment.
There are some claims within Listenbee's suit that merit examination, or at a minimum a discussion, starting with an athletic department having its own physicians on staff.
For decades, college and professional football teams simply employed doctors on a "part-time" basis. To be a "team doctor" holds a degree of prestige within a respective community, and normally the physician uses that title for marketing and advertising for their own practice.
It was not uncommon, however, that these team doctors were accused of rushing players back, often against their own medical advice; the nature of their position is an inherent conflict of interest, despite a doctor's commitment to their Hippocratic oath.
The 1995 book, "You're OK, It's Just a Bruise: A Doctor's Sideline Secrets About Pro Football's Most Outrageous Team," authored by former Raiders team doctor Robert Huizenga, is a horror story. The book goes into great detail about how team doctors routinely ignore their own advice in an effort to get players back on the field.
There is a reason why so many professional athletes now seek the advice of a doctor that has no affiliation with a sports franchise.
TCU currently employs two independent team doctors. An increasing number of athletic departments now employ their own team doctors, mostly for convenience, and another point of sale for recruits.
There is virtually no perfect way to do this without the potential appearance for a conflict of interest.
In conversations with former TCU team doctors and trainers who worked with Patterson and the football program, none believed the coach would ever willingly trump the advice of a team physician. They did, however, say Patterson's language would cross the line of normal professional decorum, and that because of his position people are going to be more inclined to appease his wishes.
Listenbee claims Patterson basically threatened him, and that Patterson used playing time as a means of leverage to motivate a player to return. Coaches have been doing that since the days of Amos Alonzo Stagg, but that doesn't make it right.
What Listenbee can't explain is, if he was injured so badly, how he ran a 4.40 at the Combine in 2015. That time was the second fastest among NFL receivers at the event. How could a receiver be so fast and yet be ruined, as he claims?
What Listenbee is not apt to discuss is that assistant coaches had to have meetings with his mother, long before this injury, about her son's willingness to play through pain, or to break away from home. The rap on Listenbee was that he was over-coddled.
Listenbee has bounced around on the practice squads of several NFL teams, but never appeared in an NFL game. He is currently with the Colts.
Whatever money he thought he was going to make after college won't come from the NFL but rather this lawsuit. If he wins.
In speaking to three former TCU football players, all of whom played with Listenbee, none of them believe his claims to be true. They all said, however, that they also believe/hope this lawsuit could potentially result in Patterson being more aware of his language and behaviors during practices and meetings.
The assertion is that Gary is known to go too far with players, and more often his assistant coaches.
That is not an uncommon behavior of coaches; former NFL head coach Bill Parcells was renowned to be hell on his assistants, who then in turn squeezed the players. They did not want to hear it from the head coach.
The TCU assistant coaches remain loyal, however, because TCU wins, Gary routinely tries to get them raises, and TCU is a good place to be employed.
TCU is prepared to see this case all the way to court. Sources indicate the school made a nominal offer to Listenbee last fall when his lawyer first contacted TCU; think roughly $5,000.
The school is prepared for the long fight because without a settlement, this case will take well over a year. Including the Big 12 as a defendant also means the case could wind up in a Dallas court room, which is what Listenbee's attorney wants.
The longer the case goes, it was only a matter of time before a national outlet covered this story, and for TCU and Patterson to look bad.
HBO is that outlet, and April 24 is that day.