Mac Engel

Lawsuit against TCU a money grab that is not without merit

Former TCU wide receiver Kolby Listenbee filed a lawsuit in a Dallas court, because TCU would not hand him a check.

Then a mediator didn’t give him the proposal he wants.

TCU head football coach Gary Patterson is being sued, which means head football coaches soon will require malpractice insurance.

While the lawsuit most likely will result in nothing, there are troubling elements to it regarding the head coach, and the culture of the sport in current society.

Listenbee, who played at TCU from 2012 to 2015, is suing TCU, the Big 12 and TCU’s Board of Trustees. He claims the coaching staff embarrassed him, pressured him to play despite injury, and that the training staff hurried him to return in “their quest to win a national championship.”

We all know the College Football Playoff will never let that happen.

If you didn’t know it already, suing is now a career path and may soon be a major.

Sources said Listenbee and his Houston-based attorney came at TCU several months ago with these complaints.

The apparent aim was that TCU would write a check to make this headache go away, and the claims would never be public.

Sources said that this week the two sides met with a mediator, whose proposal is non-binding. The long session was one final play by Listenbee’s lawyers to force TCU to blink, and hand them some money.

TCU’s counsel feels strongly enough to essentially dare Listenbee’s agent to sue, which they have.

On Thursday afternoon, the Potts law firm issued a curious press release that read like a lawsuit, with passages copy and pasted from a game program.

Here is my favorite part of the press release: “The lawsuit alleges that in his time at TCU, Listenbee was the number two receiver alongside Josh Doctson.”

He needs a lawsuit to allege he was the No. 2 receiver?

Or there is this gem: “Despite his blazing 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds, Listenbee was selected in the 6th Round by the Buffalo Bills.”

Despite his “blazing” time he was drafted in the sixth round? If he was slower, he would have been drafted higher.

Here is the real problem: Listenbee’s pro career has not worked. He has spent time on the practice squads of Bills, Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. He signed a future/reserve contract with the Colts on Jan. 1.

Listenbee, 24, has not played in an NFL game.

The lawsuit basically claims the treatment by TCU and its coaching staff, and its rush to return him from injury, is the reason for his NFL career going nowhere.

If that flies, there will be no less than 85 million players suing their college coaches for failed NFL careers. Mack Brown may want to move to Russia.

The rap on Listenbee is that he’s “a track guy.” In football, that’s code for “he’s not tough.” Listenbee was a sprinter, too. A good one. Sprinters, in football, are often described as guys who need everything to be perfect, and struggle playing through pain.

The lawsuit reeks of an agent trying to squeeze out a return on the money he sank into his client. Either that or Listenbee and his family are looking for cash.

Here is the other problem: There are some uncomfortable realities in the lawsuit that may not be worth much in a civil court, they should be addressed. Because they are plausible.

This is not the first time GP has been alleged to have influenced the team’s medical staff in regard to an injured player.

In 2010, running back Ed Wesley was diagnosed with a concussion by then team physician Samuel Haraldson. The doctor said he was verbally accosted by Patterson after he would not allow Wesley to re-enter a game against SMU.

Later that season, Wesley downplayed the incident. Both Haraldson and GP made up over it, and medical professionals there on the sideline that night said a team doctor behaved unprofessionally.

The issue became not so much about Patterson trying to overrule a team doctor as much as his professional decorum.

GP did not return a message seeking comment.

One of the inherent problems of the sport in 2018 is previously accepted football sideline behaviors have been deemed antiquated and cruel by a growing sector of society, specifically moms and dads. What has been accepted for decades as standard practice is now subject to scrutiny, criticism and potential lawsuits.

No one hates this more than the head coach.

The other issue is the influence and power of a successful head coach.

College coaches routinely yell, scream and use verbal prodding to intimidate and motivate players; that has been true of football since the game’s inception. The pressure to win, to keep money flowing, has only added to the volume and intensity to it all.

The current generation doesn’t much care for it, and neither do the parents.

That an athletic department staffer, trainer, or even a physician, however, would be easily intimidated and coerced into a decision by the most powerful person on campus is entirely plausible. And troublesome.

TCU sources said that some of Patterson’s previous treatment of team trainers and physicians, specifically his language and volume, have ranged from disconcerting and irritating. Former team medical staffers all said the same: They did not believe he would over rule a team physician’s medical diagnosis.

GP can be a hothead who is known to go boom.

Now he’s being sued for it, among other things.

While there may be some plausible concerns and validity to a portion of Kolby Listenbee’s claims, we should not expect much to come from this suit, and he should not expect a check.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof