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Casey Pachall's suspension and TCU's reputation

The Frogs season may be ruined without Pachall, but there were some significant non-football reasons that left Gary Patterson little choice in how to deal with his star QB's DWI.

Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

According to sources, there is intense political pressure at the top of the school to keep Pachall suspended, at the least. -- Fort Worth Star Telegram

Without Casey Pachall behind center, TCU's offense fell apart in their 37-23 loss to Iowa State last Saturday. His backup, redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin, threw 3 INT's as the Frogs lost their first conference home game in Amon Carter Stadium, newly renovated at a cost of $164 million. Even more worrisome for Frogs fans, that was a game TCU was supposed to win before the heart of a grueling Big 12 schedule -- at Baylor, vs. Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, vs. Kansas State, at Texas and vs. OU.

Without Pachall, who was emerging as a star in his second season as a starter, Tech is the only team on that schedule TCU will be favored to beat. In such a situation, you would expect the pressure to play the star QB would be immense. Instead, the pressure Gary Patterson faced to bench him is a revealing window into the intersection between college athletics, a school's reputation and student culture.

For a small private school like TCU, sports are the face of the university. You can't throw a rock in Texas without hitting an alum of massive state schools like UT and A&M. TCU, in contrast, has only 75,000 living alums; that's fewer than the number of seats in either DKR or Kyle Field.

Over the last decade, the school has been riding the wave created by the unprecedented success of Gary Patterson's program. In 2001, it had 5,000 applications. By 2011, that number shot up to over 19,000. In that span, TCU has moved from the WAC to the MWC, the Big East and finally the Big 12.

However, over the last year, cracks have started to show. There was a massive campus-wide drug bust last spring where several members of the football team, including All-American LB Tanner Brock, were charged as drug dealers. In a conversation with an undercover officer, Brock estimated that at least 60 players on the football team would fail a surprise drug test.

Pachall, Brock's roommate, was one of them, later admitting to police that he had also experimented with cocaine and ecstasy. Now, after being arrested for a DWI last week, he has left the school to enroll in an in-patient rehab facility. And while Pachall's mistakes are ultimately on him, the fact that this went down at TCU, if I'm being completely honest, isn't exactly the most surprising news of all-time. That, as much as anything else, is why he had to go.

I'm a lifelong resident of Dallas who attended an exclusive all-male college prep school from grades 6-12. Needless to say, I know plenty of kids who went to TCU, SMU, Baylor and every other former SWC school in the state. In the 2011 school year, TCU's total cost of attendance, with room and board, was $46,350. It's not a bad school by any means, but ranked near the bottom of the Top 100, it's not the type of place valedictorians necessarily strive to get into either.

As with any college, a certain amount of self-selection occurs in the applicant pool. SMU, TCU's mirror image on the other side of the Metroplex, is often referred to as "Southern Millionaires University". And with a similar combination of a wealthy student body and a middling academic ranking, it's no real surprise that 40% of TCU's student body is involved in greek life.

SMU is TCU's biggest rival, but the more glaring contrast is with another football-playing private school an hour down I-35. Baylor, once known for its 151-year ban on dancing and location near the scene of the Branch Davidian massacre, has undergone a football-fueled PR makeover of its own in the last few years. RG3 is such a big figure for their school that they feature his Heisman acceptance speech in the TV ads they play during football games.

The demographic profile of all their student bodies is very similar, but Waco, for all its charms, isn't Fort Worth. I went to school in Austin and drove through Waco dozens of times during my time in college; not once did I ever have any real desire to stop. Among the suburban high schools and high-priced private schools that the schools recruit from, Baylor attracts a different type of student than TCU.

These distinctions might not matter to the national college football fan, but even in a day and age where sports is king, they're still important to college higher-ups, alums, and, most importantly, the parents whose checks fund the entire operation. It's one thing for TCU to have the reputation of a party school among students; it's quite another for their parents to hear about campus-wide drug use in the media.

The two schools have a big football game this weekend, with both hoping to get back into the Top 25 and the Big 12 title race with a win. But while the football field is the most high-profile place they compete, it isn't the most important, even in Texas. I'd much rather go to a TCU party, but if I had a daughter, I think I'd send her to Baylor first.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.