Lawsuit shows different side of TCU athletics

By Danny Robbins

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 24 2011 10:00 p.m. MST

FORT WORTH, Texas — A lawsuit against Texas Christian University slated for trial this spring accuses the school of turning a blind eye toward the criminal records, unsavory behavior and academic failings of two of three athletes who were charged with sexually assaulting a coed in 2006.

Court records filed over recent months detail how football player Lorenzo Jones and basketball player Virgil Taylor entered the university with criminal histories and remained part of their respective teams even though their academic work and conduct were called into question.

The records describe how the 300-pound Jones remained in an English class even though the instructor considered him "dangerous," how Taylor was admitted to the university despite graduating 300th in his high school class of 377 and how both remained in good standing on their teams despite repeatedly being cited for misconduct on campus.

The documents have become public record as evidence in a state court lawsuit in which the student who accused the players of rape says the university engaged in fraud by telling her it didn't recruit "miscreant" athletes. The woman, who is no longer at TCU, goes by her initials in the lawsuit. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who allege they were sexually assaulted.

The prospect of a trial, scheduled for May 2, comes at a time when TCU athletics has received more attention than ever before, with the football team going undefeated and winning the Rose Bowl. The football success has put the small private school in the national spotlight and given it a berth in the Big East conference.

Susan Hutchison, an attorney for the plaintiff, said the missteps of Jones and Taylor should have put the university on notice.

"Once you realize there's an ongoing pattern of misconduct, it just adds up," she said.

TCU spokeswoman Lisa Albert said the university doesn't comment on ongoing litigation. Mark Cohen, director of athletic media relations and a spokesman for football coach Gary Patterson, also declined comment. In its court filings, TCU has said the incidents have been "blown out of proportion" by the plaintiff.

"We strongly disagree with the Plaintiff's position that TCU acted fraudulently in any communication with the Plaintiff and expect to establish that point in court," said George Haratsis, a Fort Worth attorney representing TCU, in an e-mail. "Once the incident that is the basis of this lawsuit came to the attention of TCU officials, TCU's response was immediate and forcible. The three students involved were immediately removed and ultimately expelled from the university. The university also provided appropriate care and support to the female student through its victim's advocacy program and cooperated with the local authorities."

Neither Jones nor Taylor has hired an attorney in the lawsuit. Taylor's mother declined to speak to the AP. Jones didn't respond to multiple phone messages.

The alleged incident occurred in a campus dormitory on Oct. 13, 2006. Jones, Taylor and basketball player Shannon Behling were indicted on sexual assault charges and expelled from the university for violating a policy against inflicting bodily injury or emotional harm.

More than a year later, the Tarrant County district attorney's office dropped the charges against the three athletes. Prosecutors repeatedly have declined to disclose a reason for their decision.

E-mails recently obtained by the AP show the woman agreed not to move forward after the lead prosecutor informed her that the case would be difficult to win.

In her lawsuit, the former student says she passed out after taking a sip from a sports drink offered by one of the athletes and woke up the next morning with her clothes inside out and her bra missing. Four days later, she suffered an outbreak of herpes so severe she required hospitalization.

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