FORT WORTH, Texas — Authorities arrested 17 students at Texas Christian University on Wednesday as part of a six-month drug sting, an especially embarrassing blow to the school because it included four members of the high-profile football team.
Arrest warrants painted a startling picture of the Horned Frogs, with a handful of players who allegedly arranged marijuana sales after class or around practice and who told police that most of the team had failed a surprise drug test just two weeks ago.
According to police, players sold marijuana to undercover officers during the football season and as recently as last week.
"There are days people want to be a head football coach, but today is not one of those days," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said in a prepared statement. "As I heard the news this morning, I was first shocked, then hurt and now I'm mad."
The 17 people arrested were caught making "hand-to-hand" sales of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs to undercover officers, police said. They said the bust followed an investigation prompted by complaints from students, parents and others.
TCU has an enrollment of about 9,500 students, but the athlete arrests drew the most scrutiny. The bust came just one day after a thrilling overtime victory by the men's basketball team over a ranked opponent and less than 24 hours after TCU released its football schedule for next season, its first in the Big 12 Conference.
Three prominent defensive players on the team were arrested: linebacker Tanner Brock, the leading tackler two seasons ago, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and cornerback Devin Johnson. The other player is offensive lineman Ty Horn.
While school Chancellor Victor Boschini said he didn't think TCU had a "football problem," the arrest affidavits raise the possibility that other players were involved.
In November, a Fort Worth police officer was informed that Horn was selling marijuana to "college students and football players at Texas Christian." The officer allegedly bought marijuana that day, Nov. 3, two days before a road game at Wyoming, from both Horn and Yendrey.
Officers during the next several months allegedly set up drug deals with the players outside restaurants, a grocery store and other areas around campus. On Jan. 19, Brock allegedly sold an officer $200 worth of marijuana after Yendrey ran out.
"After a short conversation about the marijuana, Brock and I exchanged phone numbers, telling me to come to him from now on instead of (Yendrey)," according to the affidavits.
Horn and Johnson scoffed at the Feb. 1 team drug test ordered by Patterson, police said. Brock allegedly told an undercover officer that he failed the surprise test "for sure," but that it wouldn't be a problem because there "would be about 60 people screwed."
Horn had looked through the football roster and "said there were only 20 people that would pass the test on the team," Brock said, according to the warrant.
And six days after the test, Johnson allegedly sold an officer $300 worth of marijuana. Asked about the test, he said: "What can they do, 82 people failed it."
TCU released a statement late Wednesday afternoon that said the school tests its athletes for drug use "on a regular basis."
"The comments about failed drug tests made by the separated players in affidavits cannot be verified simply because they were made in the context of a drug buy," the school said. Patterson declined to answer questions beyond his prepared statement.
Phone messages left at the homes of Horn, Johnson and Yendrey were not immediately returned. Brock did not have a listed home number. All of the players are 21 except for Yendrey, who is 20.
Brock was being held on $10,000 bond at the Mansfield city jail. Johnson and Horn were being transferred to the jail on Wednesday afternoon and Yendrey had not been arraigned.
Police said they had yet to determine if other football players were involved or would be charged.
Officials said the students had been "separated from TCU" and criminally barred from campus, but it wasn't clear if the players had been kicked off the team.
"I expect our student-athletes to serve as ambassadors for the university and will not tolerate behavior that reflects poorly on TCU, the athletics department, our teams or other student-athletes within the department," athletic director Chris Del Conte said. "Our student-athletes are a microcosm of society and unfortunately that means some of our players reflect a culture that glorifies drugs and drug use. That mindset is not reflected by TCU nor will it be allowed within athletics."
Brock was the leading tackler for TCU as a sophomore during the 2010 season, when the Horned Frogs went 13-0, won the Rose Bowl and finished the year ranked No. 2. Brock started the season opener at Baylor last September, but aggravated a foot injury that required season-ending surgery.
Yendrey started 12 of 13 games this past season, when he had 39 tackles and three sacks. Johnson played in all 13 games, starting the last eight, and had 47 tackles with 2 1/2 sacks.
Brock likely would have been a starter again in 2012. Yendrey, who also started five guys as a junior, and Johnson both were juniors last season and had another season of eligibility. Horn appeared in 10 games this past season, making one start. He played in eight games as a freshman.
"Under my watch, drugs and drug use by TCU's student-athletes will not be tolerated by me or any member of my coaching staff," Patterson said. "I believe strongly that young people's lives are more important than wins or losses.
He added: "At the end of the day, though, sometimes young people make poor choices. The Horned Frogs are bigger and stronger than those involved."
Boschini, the chancellor, called the charges against all the students "simply unacceptable." Fraternity members were among those arrested, though Boschini said he didn't think any whole fraternity houses were at fault.
"Today's events have changed the life of everybody at TCU," Boschini said.