Houston Chronicle – Sep 24, 2007 – Joseph Duarte – There have been dark days for coach Mack Brown at Texas, but rarely have they coincided with a 4-0 start and top-10 national ranking.

These days, it’s not the close calls against Arkansas State or Central Florida that trouble Brown.

It’s the seemingly never-ending wave of off-field legal problems that has brought more pressure than an Oklahoma pass rush the past few months. A string of arrests and suspensions has made the Longhorns a national punch line befitting an opening dialogue for Jay Leno and David Letterman.

What do you call a drug ring in Austin? A huddle.

The Longhorns have adopted a new “honor system.” Yes, your honor. No, your honor.

Four UT football players are riding in a car, who’s driving? The police.

Mack Brown should not have hired a new defensive coordinator this offseason. He should have hired a defense attorney.

Even the familiar Hook ‘Em Horns slogan has been replaced by Book ‘Em Horns from rival schools.

Texas officials are not amused.

“We need to fix it and keep it fixed,” UT men’s athletic director DeLoss Dodds said. “We will survive and come through this.”

Since June, six UT football players have been arrested on charges ranging from driving while intoxicated to drug possession to aggravated robbery to tampering with evidence.

Brown, in his 10th season at Texas, has acted swiftly and sternly. One player (safety Robert Joseph) has been kicked off the team and three others are suspended indefinitely pending the legal process.

“I’ve dealt with more in six months than I’ve dealt with really in about 23 years,” Brown said.
“Especially more than in the 10 (years) here.”

The latest arrest came last Monday when James Henry, a freshman running back, was arrested on third-degree felony charges of beating up a victim and tampering with physical evidence in connection with a July 27 robbery allegedly involving two other football players � Joseph and defensive tackle Andre Jones.

A hard town and state

Henry’s arrest came on the same day Brown chided coverage of the school’s legal run-ins, saying “Austin is as hard on people and this state’s as hard on kids as I’ve ever seen.”

Brown, who led the Longhorns to a national title during the 2005 season, has taken a tough stance with a zero tolerance policy.

Sophomore linebacker Sergio Kindle and junior defensive end Henry Melton were suspended for the first three games of the season for their DWI arrests, the harshest penalties handed down by Brown since arriving in 1998.

Last season, Brown suspended starting cornerback Tarell Brown for the Longhorns’ showdown with top-ranked Ohio State after he was charged with misdemeanor drug possession and unlawful gun possession. The drug charge against Brown was dropped.

Another player, running back Ramonce Taylor, was charged with possession of marijuana prior to last season and sentenced to 60 days in jail. He transferred to Texas College, where he was academically ineligible. He was not selected in April’s NFL draft.

“Young people who do not obey the law, university or team rules will continue to be disciplined with a stern hand and we will move forward,” Brown said. “We continue to have a zero tolerance policy in that regard.”

The UT administration has solidly supported Brown, who received a two-year contract extension and sizable raise in late August that makes him among the nation’s five highest-paid football coaches. Dodds repeatedly has praised Brown for his handling of the program, and UT president William Powers Jr. offered a show of support last week.

Coach is devastated

Those close to Brown said he has been “devastated” by the off-field problems and how it has stained the program’s reputation. After the latest arrest, Brown took full responsibility and said “it’s all on me.”

“What I’ve got to do is just go back and look at me, and not point fingers, not make excuses but put it solely on my shoulders,” Brown said. “I am responsible for everything we do, and I want to make sure the University of Texas is getting what they’re paying for and right now I’ve got to do a better job.”

In 20 years as coach from 1957-76, legendary UT coach Darrell Royal said he dealt with his share of problems, but nothing compared to the current Longhorns. Although it was a different era and different kids, Royal said the message remains the same.

“I eliminated some of them, just told them to move out of the dorm and their scholarship wasn’t any good anymore. That makes it damn serious to the rest of them that are there,” he said. “I could do things they can’t do now. They’d like to, but they can’t. It’s against the rules.”

What can the Longhorns do to prevent such incidents? Presently, freshmen and sophomores are required to live in on-campus dormitories. Those upperclassmen requesting to live off campus must receive permission from everyone from the coaching staff to the athletic department’s academic advisers.

There are no plans to implement a curfew or centralized housing for the team, Dodds said. All but one of the arrests occurred during the summer, when the NCAA prohibits contact between the coaching staff and players.

Where the Longhorns can avoid issues is during the recruiting process, leaning heavily on Brown’s close ties to the state’s high school coaches. None of the 19 players for the 2008 recruiting class have backed out of their commitments, including several from the Houston area, a school official said.

Joseph, who remains in Travis County Jail facing two felonies, was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and evading arrests less than nine months after committing to the Longhorns in August 2005, according to the Port Arthur News. Brown had no knowledge of Joseph’s previous arrest, a school spokesman said.

“Where we need to start is recruiting,” Dodds said. “We are careful who we recruit to the University of Texas.”

Texas isn’t alone in dealing with off-field legal problems. No fewer than seven Florida football players have been in trouble with the law since the Jan. 8 national championship victory over Ohio State.

Oklahoma State linebacker Chris Collins, a former UT commitment, continues to play despite remaining under indictment for sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl in 2004.

Nebraska suspended Maurice Purify, the team’s leading receiver last season, for one game after he pleaded no contest to assault this summer.

With an influx of high school players leaving school a semester early to enroll in college, schools need to invest more in a support staff to tackle early problems arising from immaturity and being away from home for the first time, said sports psychologist Dr. John Murray.

Reputation at stake
“Money should not be an issue when talking about the reputation and the success of the program,” Murray said. “The administrators, alumni and power people at every particular campus across the country need to wake up, smell the coffee and get real.”

Despite the arrests, Brown said the problems are not indicative of his program.

“I will put our long-term record of character up against anybody,” he said.

A recap of recent arrests involving UT players.

Robert Joseph
Class/hometown:Sophomore/Port Arthur

Position:: Safety

Arrest dates: June 9 and July 29

Charges: Two charges of burglary of a vehicle (misdemeanor); aggravated robbery (first-degree felony) and tampering or fabricating physical evidence (third-degree felony).

Status: Transferred from the team (remains in Travis County Jail)

• • •

Henry Melton
Class/hometown: Junior/Grapevine

Position:: Defensive end

Arrest date: June 1

Charge: Driving while intoxicated

Status: Reinstated Sept. 17 after serving three-game suspension.

• • •

Sergio Kindle
Class/hometown: Sophomore/Dallas

Position:: Linebacker

Arrest date: July 28

Charge: Driving while intoxicated

Status: Reinstated Sept. 17 after serving three-game suspension.

• • •

Andre Jones
Class/hometown: Freshman/El Paso

Position:: Defensive tackle

Arrest date: Aug. 2

Charge: Aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, a first-degree felony.

Status: Suspended indefinitely from team

• • •

Tyrell Gatewood
Class/hometown: Senior/Tyler

Position:: Safety

Arrest date: Sept. 12

Charges: Two misdemeanor counts for drug possession.

Status: Suspended indefinitely from team

• • •

James Henry
Class/hometown: Redshirt freshman/Schertz

Position:: Running back

Arrest date: Sept. 17

Charges: Obstruction and tampering with evidence, third-degree felonies, in connection with July 27 robbery involving Joseph and Jones.

Status: Suspended indefinitely from team

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.