Addressing 20 members of the media, Gary Patterson never looked at the typed, folded, laminated piece of paper that featured highlighted sentences and bullet points that he clutched in his hands.
On this “cheat sheet” was a sentence that read, “We take the high road.”
Following a spring practice on Sunday afternoon, the TCU football coach did just that when he publicly addressed the lawsuit filed by former Horned Frogs receiver Kolby Listenbee against Patterson, TCU, the Big 12 and TCU's Board of Trustees.
The head coach and TCU’s athletics administration have wanted to talk about this case, but had avoided any public comment, per the advice of the attorneys.
“Without talking about it, I guess I was a little bit hurt,” Patterson said of the lawsuit. “Thirty-six years, I’m a coach who put everything my life into kids.”
While Listenbee’s representation has publicly thrown out various accusations, TCU remained silent even though the coach himself was itching to defend himself publicly; that’s why he carried a cheat sheet on Sunday – to make sure he did not veer off point and say something both he and the school may regret.
When the GP train gets rolling, it has been known to run into an occasional wall.
Patterson didn’t say anything dumb, but this dumb case is not going to end anytime soon. Unless Listenbee’s attorney decides to drop the case, this lawsuit could be years away from a resolution.
The cost is going to be high, and the headaches/migraines aplenty, but TCU and Patterson can’t give up and settle to make this go away.
Even if that means going before a judge or jury.
The lawsuit is a shameless money grab, and it’s an unflattering look for Patterson, but the potential collateral damage of these accusations range far beyond Fort Worth.
The precedence of a former player suing and settling for damages, based on the charges alleged by Listenbee, would create a slew of potential clients for hungry lawyers looking for worried and motivated defendants.
The precedence of a former player suing and winning a case in court, based on the charges alleged by Listenbee, and injury attorneys all over the U.S. would open up the champagne.
In the 9 minutes Patterson spoke about this case, he talked without saying too much.
“It’s always been about the program, it’s never been about winning,” he said. “Winning is important but not because of somebody’s health.”
Listenbee has alleged Patterson and the coaches coerced himself and other players to return from injury early; and implied the coach is a bully.
“Our outside doctors, they decide those things; they say (players) are released, if they say they can’t play, they can’t play,” Patterson said. “If they can, it comes down to the student-athlete. We’ve never changed from the philosophy. It’s what we do.”
It’s what most college programs do.
From a young age, well before they reach college, a player learns this is standard football practice; that if they don’t play through pain or problems, they might lose their chance to start, and to play.
Here is an uncomfortable truth about nearly all college football coaches, including Patterson: On some level, they all have bullying characteristics. Because it’s football on an absurdly competitive level.
People in positions such as Patterson, or high levels of leadership, do not advance to this level of such a paranoid world without hurting a few feelings.
Today, that behavior is often defined as bullying. Welcome to 2018.
Patterson said he's not a bully (who exactly admits to such an accusation?)
GP said he's a "winner."
Listenbee’s attorney initially notified TCU of their grievances back in September of ‘17, and the two sides have gone back and forth since.
They tried a mediator and that flopped.
Now Listenbee’s attorneys are reaching out to former players in an effort to find more instances of alleged abuse by Patterson and his staff.
That includes anecdotes offered by former players Lonta Hobbs, Ed Wesley, among others.
In turn, a slew of former players have countered any negative accusations with passionate defenses of Patterson and his coaches.
Patterson said he’s told the players who want to come forward, ostensibly to testify on his and the school’s behalf, to “lay in the weeds.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity to tell our side,” he said. “It’s not going to be today.”
It won't be anytime soon, either.
The easier route is to write Listenbee a go-away check and to be done with it.
However long this story takes, and however messy it might become, TCU and Patterson don't have any choice but to fight this, even if it means going before a judge and jury.