TCU football coaches and staffers knew about an incident back in March involving star receiver KaVontae Turpin in New Mexico, but when the senior was asked about the incident he clearly misled his coaches that it included a charge of assaulting his girlfriend.
Turpin was arrested on Sunday after allegedly assaulting the same woman in Fort Worth. Frogs head coach Gary Patterson said that it wasn’t until this arrest that he was aware the incident in March also included battery charges.
Patterson, at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, read a document TCU had obtained regarding Turpin’s incident in New Mexico.
“No bond amount, criminal property damage,” Patterson read.
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“This is the information I had,” he said. “It did not say anything about a woman.”
Turpin did not say anything about allegations of assault, according to Patterson.
“That would have been good to know,” he said.
Patterson also said, “No” when asked if Turpin lied to him.
Uh, clearly he did. This sort of omission is not an accident.
A different report, however, surfaced on Monday of the same incident that states, “Battery (household member)“ as well as property damage.
The Las Cruces Police Department was adamant to Star-Telegram reporter Drew Davison that the report contained all of the charges, not just certain parts.
Sources and friends of Turpin said he downplayed and minimized the incident, and excluded a part of the altercation with his girlfriend. With his likeable personality and giant smile on his small frame, people bought it. Or they wanted to buy it because he was a good football player.
No one ever looked into it further. All one had to do was type in his name for a background check and they would have seen the police report, which is not good; and a bench warrant was issued in July by a Las Cruces, New Mexico court on Turpin over a battery charge from the incident, which he denied.
These background checks are the same ones athletic departments run on potential recruits before offering a scholarship. The checks are free. This was, at least, an egregious oversight.
Patterson, on Tuesday, said Turpin will not play for the team again.
However you want to spin, or explain, this one, at no point in his career has GP looked worse than he does right now. He had a player scoring touchdowns for his team who had a warrant to appear in court for what is essentially domestic violence.
In this day and age of heightened awareness of domestic violence, this one is terrible because it was ultimately avoidable.
He who has a statue of himself is the supreme ruler of his football team, and when the program is all about the head coach, it’s on him. While Turpin’s behaviors are his alone, the head coach is accountable to know when something of this magnitude has happened.
While the explanation may ultimately be believable, and will have zero impact on his standing at the school, it is Gary’s job to know.
Through the crack
Because Turpin’s first incident occurred across state lines, the only way a department official or a coach was going to know about this was if they were told.
A member of the media in Las Cruces was going to have to see the name on the police blotter, or a report, and recognize it to make it a story. The chances of that were slim. The chances of a public prosecutor making noise out of this case were equally low.
Coaches, players and friends were aware that Turpin had a dysfunctional relationship with the girlfriend, who is in the military. They knew it was messy.
Turpin should have told his coaches about the incident, but he chose to hide it, and then to lie. TCU chose not to research it beyond what Patterson said they had, which was a personal property report.
Turpin chose not to appear in court for his scheduled date in July. Had he appeared on the scheduled date, there was a chance this particular incident would never have come to light.
His mother, Shayla Turpin, posted the following message Monday on Facebook:
“My TCU family,
“Let me start off by apologizing for some of my responses tonight. I’m truly emotional right now. But please understand that my son and I are going through a very tough time right now. My son’s integrity is compromised because of this incident. I only ask that his true supporters continue to keep my family in your prayers as we try to make sense of this whole ordeal. I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you. KaVontae’s only dream is to be successful. And as his mother I will support him every step of the way. Thank you all for your prayers and support.”
Turpin was a risk
TCU and Patterson both were aware that Turpin was a player who would require extra attention.
While academically he was OK, he was one of those guys who came from a terrible background in Monroe, La., and struggled with the social transition to college life. He was doing it, but he was always close to the fire.
Most college teams have these types of players, because they finish 1-10 without them.
Turpin was worth the risk because of his talents; he was one of the best returners and receivers in the Big 12.
Turpin was not that much different from former TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, who was as charming as he was athletic and talented. Boykin also came from a challenging background, and had an affinity for the fire.
Boykin avoided trouble throughout his TCU career, until the eve of his final college game when he was involved in a fight in San Antonio before the 2015 Alamo Bowl. He was suspended immediately from the team.
Since earning his degree from TCU, Boykin has had multiple incidents with the law. On Sept. 28, he was indicted on an aggravated assault charge against his girlfriend.
Both Patterson and TCU remain stuck in a lawsuit filed by his former player, receiver Kolby Listenbee, who has alleged abusive behavior by the coach. That case likely won’t go to court for at least a year.
While that suit smells like a cash grab, this incident with Turpin is more troubling.
Patterson has said throughout the years that people know what his program is about. While he has his legion of defenders, including a list of former players, stay in a place long enough and the players a coach takes a risk on will fry him.
In taking on Turpin’s talents, Gary made a decision. It’s one he’s made before, with varying success. A decision made by college coaches everywhere, every year.
He made the decision with defensive end Tommy Blake in 2007, a wonderfully talented player who had a passion for not going to class, and sliding weed into his travel bag for road games.
GP made a decision with running back Aaron Brown back in 2008, who was “suspended for violating university policy,” which is a nice way to say he stole something from a student.
GP made a decision with quarterback Casey Pachall in 2012, who had a DUI, admitted to the cops he flunked some drug tests, and eventually dis-enrolled from the school before returning to figure it all out and earning his degree.
GP made a decision with defensive end DeVonte’ Fields in 2013. Fields was a good pass rusher who had a history of stuff at Arlington Martin before coming to TCU. He was finally kicked out in 2014 after he allegedly assaulted a girlfriend.
GP made a decision with receiver LaDarius Brown in 2012; he was kicked out in 2014 after he was busted for possession of weed. There were other concerns with Brown.
And then there is the infamous quartet of TCU football players, who in February of 2012 were arrested for selling drugs to undercover cops. All four players were kicked out immediately.
Sometimes Pachall happens when the player screws up, grows up, and returns to play and finish his degree.
TCU and GP gave Turpin a chance out of high school, but Turpin blew this opportunity and burned his coach and team in the process.
The image and the future
The way TCU is set up is no different than any other program. Players are pawns on a slow conveyor belt, and the program is all about the coach. It’s been that way since the days of Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama or DKR at Texas.
So, while Turpin’s actions are ultimately his and his alone, the decision to keep him is all about the coach.
Between the Listenbee lawsuit and now this Turpin incident, Patterson got a little more muddy in 2018.
Gary and his staff may not have known about the specifics from Turpin’s incident from March, but it was their jobs to know. The details were there..
Rather than run a background check on a kid just once, some staffer will need to do it a few times a year. Just to be sure.
When asked about that possibility on Tuesday, Patterson suggested that to do so is inviting charges of profiling from student athletes. He’s not wrong.
The last thing any coach or program, however, needs is one of their players to be scoring touchdowns while he has a bench warrant over a charge of domestic violence.
It’s an awful look for a coach stuck in an awful year.