Google Analytics Tracking Code

Monday, January 11, 2016

Stolen Endings

Down 31-0 at the half we had seen this story before. TCU trailed Oregon in the 2015 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, in part, because its star quarterback was suspended. To a handful of people across Texas and the nation, the circumstances were all too familiar. What might have been?

An intoxicated Trevone Boykin snuck out of his hotel after reportedly being tucked in for the night. Then, he found himself in a Riverwalk saloon where words were exchanged, punches were thrown, an arrest was made, and dreams were dashed.

It was December 14, 2002 when Trinity beat up St. John's to advance to the Division III national football championship to take on powerhouse Mount Union. The Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl was a big deal. Airing on ESPN, it was Trinity's chance to shine on the national stage. Finally. The Tigers were led by Roy Hampton, the brazen gunslinger at quarterback, who led the nation in passing in D-III. If any team would beat this Mount Union team it could be a powerful offense like the Tigers.

Celebrating at a party following the semi-final win, Roy Hampton was passed out, reportedly after being tucked in for the night. Then, he found himself in a Riverwalk saloon where words were exchanged, punches were thrown, an arrest was made, and dreams were dashed.

Trinity went on to play its biggest game on the national stage alright. But it was painful. What might have been? The Tigers went on to lose 48-7. So much more was lost that day then a game, though we got another chance when Trinity again hit the news with its Mississippi Miracle in 2007. Perhaps it was our consolation prize.

Roy Hampton and three others were suspended from Trinity University in October 2001. I remember it well: I suspended them. It was an easy decision. The four students had gotten in a scuffle with a Trinity student at nearby Bombay Bicycle Club. They left and within an hour someone shot a gun at that other student's apartment near the Quarry. A public servant was an eyewitness and later identified the four students as present, both at the initial hearing and then the appeal hearing. The suspension was upheld.

The Tigers were eliminated from the playoffs before the suspension went into effect. It was the only time I cheered against our team. The suspension would likely have taken place sometime before the championship if we would get that far. I didn't want that on me.

As a young Dean, this was my first big test. The victim in the case and his family wanted immediate and harsh justice. Among the four students accused were the nephew of a professor and an African-American student, also on the football team. His family alleged racism on my part. The Trinity uncle naturally put his heart with his family. Attorneys of the students were interviewed on the local TV news. "The Dean of Students served as prosecutor, judge, and jury" groused one. A Web page, mostly trashing me and my investigation sprung up. Calls to my house threatening me to back off didn't help. There was more, and it was messy. It was the worst period of my professional life. The Faculty Senate would ultimately move to strip authority from the Dean of Students to make uni-lateral decisions in cases. As a result, the Dean is the least powerful person on campus, which is odd for someone who oversees student conduct.

How did I get there? I loved the Trinity Tiger football team. It was the golden era of our Division III team. You could do a TV show about it. Before Roy Hampton, the brash Mike Burton led the Tigers to the playoffs and won the D-III MVP award for his own talents. Even today it is on display in the Bell Center. He was good and he helped coach Roy, who came right after him. Sometimes the team made it hard to support them with their shenanigans. But they were dynamic, on and off the field, filled with colorful characters. I used to love to take my young sons to meet the players on the field after games and they were very kind and gracious to my boys. In one playoff run we set-up speakers on the Heidi lawn to listen to the game as a community. I was there that night to support the team, following a heart-breaking loss, when the buses rolled back to campus. We would have another day. So we thought.

But in 2001 I became the enemy. Later, amid legal wrangling that happened above my level, there was an admission that "mistakes were made" in exchange for being allowed back in the fall of 2002. The other students never came back, but Roy did. I supported that move for purely selfish reasons. I was off the hook for ruining Trinity football.

Then the incredible playoff run happened, and we finally were headed to the title game. I was ecstatic for the University. But it all came crashing down within days, when Roy's arrest was made public. Trinity was lauded for doing the right thing in suspending him. It was in part because of Roy's previous record. Maybe pundits felt good. Virtually no one else did. Coach Steve Mohr had reached his pinnacle only to have the opportunity ripped away. It was devastating.

According to Roy's teammate, and our current coach, Jerheme Urban, it haunted Roy. How could it not. Coach Urban says Roy never got over letting other people down. Imagine if there were social media then. Roy was wildly popular with his team and friends. He was the life of the party and had charisma. Roy passed away in 2013. There would be no redemption in his story and maybe that is why even Trinity skirted it in its announcement. But when Trevone Boykin repeated history, I couldn't do the same.

Years after all of this I would reach out to Roy over email to see how he was doing. I didn't feel sorry for him. I wasn't worried about him. I guess I just wondered about him. We had a nice, brief, cordial exchange. He was very gracious. You learn after awhile that people aren't defined by one act. They are not two-dimensional. We are all the sum of our parts. You appreciate the complexity of people - especially young people. I eventually made peace with the professors who became deeply involved in the shooting case. Time and conversation heal. Hopefully the players from those teams harbor no ill-will against me. But I understand if they do. We lived through an epic Greek tragedy.

The one positive outcome has been that Jerheme Urban was named head coach after Steve Mohr retired. Jerheme is a high-character man. He included Roy in his football camps in Victoria if only to have time to spend with his friend. He supported him when it would have been easy to write him off. The team is rolling again, under his leadership. He is using his own Trinity and NFL experience to shape young men. They make mistakes too. But he has their blind spot, as he did with Roy.

So this January, trailing by a bundle, TCU would follow suit until its now historic comeback, defeating the Oregon Ducks on ESPN in a dramatic double-overtime come from behind victory. They stole our ending. A similar epic comeback by the Tigers would have gone a long way: for Trinity, for Roy Hampton, for Coach Mohr and the team, and even for me.

When Trevone Boykin threw that punch another one landed. Those of us who remember 2002 took one to the gut, again. You know what? It still hurt.

No comments: